Posts Tagged ‘stronghold’

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

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The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?  [Psalm 27:1, NIV]

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Three words drove my prayers from this verse: light, stronghold, and fear.

There are so many different kinds of light but they all get similar results: they transform the appearance of a place or thing by illuminating it. Light pushes back darkness. Light is often a reflection of energy. “God is light, and in God, there no darkness at all.” [I John 1:5] Light reveals things that are hidden. Light is no respecter of persons. Light does not judge, Light is.

And apparently, the presence of Light (the Light) gives confidence against the people, situations or causes I might fear.

A stronghold is best described as a fortified place which has been created as the best (and often the last) line of defense. It is like safe within a bank or a tower within a castle. It is built with defense and safety in mind. This, then, is within me as well. There is a location within me that is protected by the Holy Spirit. This place cannot be breached without permission, an open door or window, opened from within. This is where God’s Spirit dwells in tandem with my own spirit.

But fear is also a strong word and it manifests most often through people. It is unfortunate how often I engage people (and my fear) before I engage my place of strength within or before I shed the Light on the situation. This task is to be done daily, hourly, and even minute by minute. Some people call it centering.

I want to stop “reacting” and simply be fully in the moment and allow that moment to be what it is and me to be who I am in Christ. That’s one of the reasons why it’s called “the peace that passes understanding.” That place is not always apparent if I don’t practice being there.

It is prayer from the place of strength. It is prayer of abandon and trust. It is authentic and transparent.

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fortressThe Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?  [Psalm 27:1]

A stronghold is a fortress or castle, a fortified refuge, a secure citadel. In Western culture, this is not a strong concept.

Contemporary forts and military installations may have guards at the gate, but really, it’s not that hard to get onto the property. However, if other military bases are similar to the Aberdeen Proving Ground which is nearby, there is an area that is completely secure, most locals call it “behind the fence.” It’s not that the entire base doesn’t have fencing, but this area is specifically top secret. It is next to impossible to get in there without proper identification. It is secure, it is a citadel and it is inside the larger complex.

In some ways, I think the stronghold of God is the same way. It’s within me. My body may suffer from external harm: I can be injured and I can become ill. But, the soul, my very Spirit, is “behind the fence.” It’s part of the covenant I have with the Christ. This was the agreement God made with human: invite Christ in and a fortress is built.

The only time this stronghold is breached is when I open the doors and windows myself, when I allow danger too close, when I engage with thoughts or activities that can hurt me. Joyce Meyer has a series called “Battlefield of the Mind” and it is one of her best. This is the area that is partially our responsibility. There is  an amusing commercial sponsored by an exterminating company in which a giant bug comes to the front door of a home. The home owners open the door and are stunned at the insect’s presence. There is a choice: let him in or close the door.

This day, I want to be aware of the fortress of Christ within me, the Presence, the strength that is available to me if I trust the walls of Spirit, if I keep the door closed to harm.

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Acts 16:14b
… The Lord opened her [Lydia] heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Revelation… truth… understanding… none of these can happen without an open heart and it is God who makes this happen. It’s not that we can’t open our own hearts, we can. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize how closed off we really are. We assume our hearts are open… after all, what does a closed heart even look like?

I imagine a closed heart like a fortress, like the keep of a castle, the last line of defense… it is the stronghold. The heart can be like an entire castle for our normal activities and relationships; we open and close the drawbridge, we let people and ideas come in and out. But the stronghold is not open to just anyone. And sometimes, no one is allowed inside at all. And if we have collected assumptions, secrets, memories, untruths, misconceptions, pain, and prejudices, they are stored in there to keep them “safe.” If the storage areas are full, some of this stuff will pour out through the window slits and cracks and affect our daily lives. But generally, we manage to keep all that stuff inside. It is, after all, way too dangerous to let anyone inside, just opening the door may let too much out.

When I hit forty, my stronghold was so full that it was not just leaking out, it was spewing out periodically like a volcano. I often felt like I would explode, literally. I would sob uncontrollably. I would walk outside in some lonely place and just scream and scream until my throat was raw. My thoughts were jumbled up. I was like a lone survivor in an ocean trying to hold on to a life boat, but with no clue how to get in. I really thought I was going crazy.

I am grateful for the counselors, pastors, and friends who held me up during this difficult time of my life. The very thing I feared the most was the very thing I needed to do: open the keep… open the stronghold. Finally, I asked Jesus to do this work. I could not. When the door finally opened, it was not pretty. Eventually, equilibrium was achieved.

And after awhile, I thought the work was done. The proof was in my fresh energy and sense of renewal. It was during these healing years that we adopted our children, moved into a different house, changed jobs, I got a second master’s degree, I met new people and allowed new ideas to filter in.

But what was considered new then has become somewhat entrenched in my stronghold again. It is not as full as before. It is not as volatile. But I am aware that the door of my heart/my stronghold has been swinging shut more than I would like. And so, I ask my God this day, to keep my heart open. Give me courage to embrace people… all different kinds of people… authentically. Give me faith that you will sift ideas for me. Give me revelation knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Give me trust that Jesus will always be my doorkeeper.

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