Keeping the love (part two)

Henri Nouwen says we can live either in the house of love or the house of fear

Remove Shame Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part nine)

Henri Nouwen says we can live in either the house of love or the house of fear. The walls of fear’s house are shoddy attempts to keep our vulnerable self safe from danger, pain and displeasure. They take the form of emotional/relational styles of operating that are our best, but weak efforts at protection. They keep others at a distance, insuring our security. In my last post I began a list of some common “fig leaves.” Here the list continues. Do any of these seem familiar? Take hope, in my next post I’ll speak about how we can move into the house of love.

I tend to protect my vulnerable self by…

6. Co-Dependence  I gain a sense of value by being needed by others; when others don’t need me or appreciate me, I develop resentment and bitterness. Like the elder brother – Luke 15

7. Dependence  I am always in need or in crises. Like the man by the pool – John 5

8. Sexualization  I use my sexuality or flirtatious nature to avoid real intimacy in relationships. Like the woman caught in adultery – John 8

9. Spiritualizing  All of life’s issues are described in spiritual terms. No emotions acknowledged, hiding behind God, assigning God more than his due.  Like the Pharisees and the man born blind – John 9

10. Hyper Emotionality  The opposite of intellectualizing, intense emotions areexperienced and expressed as an attempt to garner sympathy and to avoid theissue at hand. Like the Gerasene demoniac – Mark 5

11. Verbosity  If I keep talking, I can distract you (and me) from my more vulnerable self. Like the young Debby Bellingham (see Proverbs 21:23 and others)

12. Busyness  My never ending list of things to do keeps me from slowing down enough to allow my deeper issues/fears to come to the surface. Plus it proves to everyone how important and efficient I am. Like Martha – Luke 10

13. Control  Micromanaging my life and the lives of those around me gives me a sense of safety. I am prepared for anything that might come along, nothing will take me by surprise. It is an attempt to keep fear at bay. Like Moses in Exodus 18 or Martha in Luke 10

14. Withdrawal  Literally shutting down, absenting myself from relationships,conversations and even myself. I become zombie-like, unreachable. If you can’t reach me, perhaps you’ll give up trying and I’ll be safe. Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19

15. Consumer  Using any substance to extreme. Moving from one “high” to the next in an attempt to numb my soul to it’s fear and shame. Like Esau in Genesis 25:29ff

We’ll talk about getting back to the garden in my next post.

This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden Retreat. For information about this retreat, please contact me or check out the upcoming events.

5 thoughts on “Keeping the love (part two)

  1. I was waiting for this one. Excellent insight. I don’t know, if God is sovereign, that we can “assign God more than His due,” but we can certainly default to the unseen spiritual aspect of a person or problem and neglect the physical, emotional, intellectual, or social.
    I find that business and control are definitely some of the biggest “fig-leaves” in our self-made leafy briefs. We will substitute good works and religious habit for a right relationship with God in an effort to be acceptable to God rather than being made acceptable by His grace. And control, either through manipulation of our circumstances or by simply knowing what to expect, is definitely an alternative refuge in which we seek safety and comfort. Thanks Debbie!


    • Thank you, Michael, it is good to know you read the article. You are right, God is sovereign, but you know the type of person I’m speaking of; The light turns yellow as they approach the intersection. “It must be God’s will for me to be late to work.” (Ignoring the fact that they turned off their alarm and got caught up in good morning america.) I really appreciate your thoughts. Blessings, Debby

  2. Debbie – your insights are so clear, concise and helpful. Thank you for the biblical illustrations of each “fig leaf.”

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