Saturday, December 25, 2010

Conviction: I'm Not Iron Man

"It's not the armour that makes the hero, but the man inside." (Copyright Marvel Studios)
"I am Iron Man" - Tony Stark, "Iron Man" (2008)

To say that the last 24 hours since the "Adoration: Childhood Heroes" post have been a little unnerving would be a bit of an understatement. As if the realisations of the last several posts since "Broken Love" weren't painful enough, God clobbered me with some more as I was finishing the last one and followed it up over the next several hours for good measure. Though I like the wording of the poem "When God Wants To Drill A Man", I can't say I really look forward to these intense beatings between His hammer and anvil; they're not much fun when they're actually happening.

I've been dimly aware of something related to the barriers around my heart for some weeks now. But reflecting on what I'd written about my search for a 'Guardian' amongst non-existent "superheroes" who never came to the rescue, God hammered the first convicting blow home:

No matter how hard and thick I try to make the armour, the "arrows" inevitably get through.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!". Like most people, I learned that limerick of pseudo-bravery in school. But as everyone who memorised it will testify through experience, this asinine hallucination is about as true as believing in horoscopes, UFOs and bent spoons. The imbecile who composed this line obviously didn't bother to read what the Bible has to say about the tongue and its capacity for devastation (James 3:6-9). In any case, I had to face the hard reality that my approach of adding thicker armour, more barriers and hardening the heart hadn't stopped it from getting hurt.

God delivered the second blow as I was reading 'The Knowledge of The Holy' by A. W. Tozer, given to me on my birthday by my friend Julia. In a chapter dealing with the nature and implications of God's love, Tozer wrote:

"Fear is the painful emotion that arises at the thought that we may be harmed or made to suffer. This fear persists while we are subject to the will of someone who does not desire our well-being. The moment we come under the protection of one of good will, fear is cast out...The effort to conquer fear without removing the causes is altogether futile...As long as we are in the hands of chance, as long as we look for hope to the law of averages, as long as we must trust for survival to our ability to outhink or outmaneuver the enemy, we have every good reason to be afraid. And fear hath torment. To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved - this and only this can cast out fear. Let a man become convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly for him all fear goes out of the universe. The nervous reflex, the natural revulsion to physical pain may be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Nothing can hurt a good man."

There was a stunned silence in my soul as the bombshell in those paragraphs impacted hard. In the aftermath of the explosion, the wheels in my head began turning, the tough questions began to erupt and the weight of conviction by the Holy Spirit began to press down: "What was your core motivation behind building all those walls? Has it all been based on conquering fear without facing the cause? Yes it has. Don't deny it, Kevin. Stop running away. It's all been based on trust in your own ability. You've been playing the part of your own bodyguard. Have you ever really, deeply believed that God loves you? Do you comprehend the implications of His loving nature? I don't think so. You don't really believe that He is powerful enough to protect your heart, do you? Or that he even wants to protect you? You've concluded during childhood that He deserted you when you were getting beaten up or hurt, haven't you? Deep down, you believed that like everyone else, He abandonded you to the wolves because He didn't love or want you. You've just never admitted it. Good grief, I'm such a horrible sinner..."

In the end, it boiled down to two painful realisations:

  • Deep down, I've never truly believed that I'm lovable to anyone, including God
  • I've never really believed that God is powerful enough to protect my heart, or that He wanted to

The third blow came later in the evening, as I was at Sam Chua's place for a Christmas and caroling party. A book on his shelf titled 'Humility: True Greatness' caught my eye and I sat down in a corner to read. The second chapter defined and talked about why God hates pride with the words: "Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence on Him."
With this final impact, the linchpin tying everything together that God was clobbering me with, fell into place:

In its search for the 'Guardian' and adoration of non-existent superheroes who never showed up when I needed them, my heart in its pride did not believe that God loved me enough, was powerful enough and was faithful enough to be the Bodyguard that it was looking for, or that He even wanted to be there for me.  

After so many years, I finally have to admit that I'm not "Iron Man", though I badly want to be. It seems God is getting me to slowly take off the armour and dismantle the barriers, one piece at a time. Could we please take a break from the 'hammer and anvil procedure' now, God? I'm feeling really sore. Ouch.

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Prov. 3 : 11-12)

- The Wisdom Seeker

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