I wrote this week how some people become cynical and bitter when they get older, wallowing in what they perceive as unmet dreams. Paulo Coelho says that it starts when we think of ourselves as victims and then we can never shake the feeling of defeat.
As we travel down that path of victimhood, we become more and more protective of ourselves. We have fewer and fewer friends and outside interests, drawing only a couple of people close to us who we think we can trust. We stop looking for people to serve, but instead concentrate on not being harmed by our enemies.
There are dangers in “circling the wagons.” It sounds like the correct response for maximum protection, but instead we anxiously keep our guns drawn, ready to shoot at everything in the shadows. Rather than shutting out the evil in the world, we shut the evil in. Our embittered heart makes an easy target for Satan.
In desperation we cling to one or two family members or friends who become exhausted with our defeat. We grope at them, begging them to protect us and take care of our every need. Eventually we begin to criticize them, squeezing the last bit of life from them. How can we not realize that they are the only thing connecting us to the outer world?
They either join us in our anger, or rebel and ask to move on. They are saddened that we cannot see the beauty of God’s kingdom all around us, but they know that in order to serve others they must be unshackled from us.
There is a difference between protective prayer that allows us to continue to serve in the world and not be harmed by it, and an impenetrable fence that keeps the last flame of our love inside.
I pray that we will be protected from evil by prayer, but rather than withdrawing in defeat, we are able to blossom with love.