The Sheltered Life

Mistakes, hurts, and abuses often cause us to hide, not allowing anyone to see who we really are. In these moments it’s difficult to envision anything outside the walls of our pain. So we lock ourselves into this stagnant life where nothing greater is ever possible.

We don’t become less flawed through healing, but we can be free.

Several years ago I made a great number of big mistakes. I took ownership of them but I refused to let anyone into my pain because I knew that would only cause more pain. In this shame-filled world I was unable to see what the future could hold. All the while God was still up to his redemptive purposes, but I never saw the potential of those in my life. The pain was blinding.

The movie/play Les Miserables begins by following the life of Jean Valjean. He’s imprisoned for trying to help keep a starving child alive, but eventually he begins to see himself as a prisoner—worthless to society. He’s lost the ability to see what he was, is, and could become. After serving his time he stays with a priest, only to steal a few precious items from the priest. His sheltered life blinds him to the great possibilities of the future.

But this is where the story flips.

Jean Valjean is given new life by the priest. The priest helps Valjean see beyond the life of abuse and pain he’s cornered himself into. The priest tells the police Valjean should have taken more items than he did and then blesses him.

In the story the priest is a picture of the God who sees our lives beyond the present struggle.

Here’s a truth often missed when life is always a battle of dealing with mistakes, hurts, and abuses:

The pain from the past never outweighs the potential of the future. (tweet this?)

This is what I could not see during the months and years after my mistakes and self-inflicted wounds. This is what Jean Valjean could not see after being released from prison.

It’s a lie from the enemy that your life has no redemptive value. “This is it,” we tell ourselves, “there’s nothing better to come of this.” The truth is, through Christ the future always has immense potential.

In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and immediately realize they are naked. So they hide. It’s a human impulse to hide when we mess up. We don’t want others to smell the stench of our filth. Subsequently, we begin to live with blind eyes.

The story of Jean Valjean, along with Adam and Eve, are cautionary tales for us. It’s so easy to get sucked into the sheltered life where we refuse to see all God has set ahead of us.

Often what we need is the reminder that this is not the end. Your current reality is not a forever sentence. It’s only the present and it has no bearing on what God could accomplish in the next moment. By living with this frame of mind we begin to open our hearts to the God who was always at work. He didn’t leave, we just built high walls around our lives.

St. Francis of Assisi says, “Above all the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” I think part of this overcoming self is taking our lives out from under the shelter, climbing the tall walls of the fortress we’ve hid behind, just to get a glimpse of the horizon. Hope is compelling to even the most wounded person.

When you let the love of God behind shelter of walls you’ve built, you eliminate the power of the hurt and pain that held their grip on your life for far too long.

The artwork in this post is a #secretmessage created by the artist Messy Canvas. Use this 10% off coupon code (MANOFDEPRAVITY) in her Etsy store to let her create a personalized 5×5 secretmessage for you. Take advantage of this great offer from Mandy.

Also, this is a subject I wrote about at length in my book. If you don’t have a copy yet, make it happen!