The drive toward self-protection is as old as the Garden. When Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to cover their shame, it was a predictable response to the effects of their decision to step outside of God’s protection and provision.
Instead of receiving the power of being “like God,” as the Enemy had promised, Adam and Eve simply experienced the vulnerability of exposure, which automatically made them insecure and they needed to hide.
Ever since, humanity has been crafting elaborate fig leaves to hide behind. They are as varied as are our individual personalities. We develop a persona that “works” for us and we use it to make it through life. We hope our fig leaves will keep us secure; we hope they will minimize the exposure of our weaknesses.
Why do we fear exposure? Because we are deeply worried that who we are — warts and all — will not be loved. Ever since that first doubt in the Garden, the doubt that God is truly good and can be trusted to give us a full, meaningful and satisfying life; we have thought that God is actually holding out on us.
If God is holding out on us, that’s just another way of saying: “God doesn’t love us.”
And therefore, like Adam and Eve, we believe we have to make life work. We especially believe we have to find ways to get love and security. We also believe that since life is up to us, we have to protect ourselves from, well, everything.
Self-protection is the way we ensure that we are OK. We can’t risk embarrassment or shame or failure. It’s self-protection that gives rise to The Impostor.
So we play it safe. We stay strictly within the realm of things that are predictable, measured and calculated.
Larry Crabb once said that most men find something they are good at and then spend their lives convincing themselves that it — whatever “It” is — is important.
That is an incredibly haunting statement because i know from personal experience exactly what Crabb is talking about. Most men do.
Crabb’s thought, and self-protection as a whole, is just another take on something Jesus said:
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Matthew 16:25-26]
Self-protection and playing it safe are ways we try to save our lives. Jesus says it’s hopeless. We will lose our lives that way.
The word Christ uses for “life” is the word psyche-the word for our soul, our inner self, our heart. He says that the things we do to save our psyche, our self, those plans to save and protect our inner life-those are the things that will actually destroy us. “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death,” says Proverbs 16:25. The false self, our plan for redemption, seems so right to us. It shields us from pain and secures us a little love and admiration. But the false self is a lie; the whole plan is built on pretense. It’s a deadly trap.
God loves us too much to leave us as the impostor “living” in our self-protective bubble of supposed safety. This is why throughout scripture, and throughout our individual lives, God is constantly calling us out, and into, the unpredictable regions of life and relationships. He even calls us deep into the unexplored regions of our souls.
In fact, He calls us to The Frontier.
A common synonym for Faith is Risk. Hebrews tells us that without Faith it is impossible to please God [Heb. 11:6], and so Risk is actually written into the fabric of our lives with God. When we let go of safety and grab hold of risk, that is when we finally experience God and the vibrant life we have actually been searching for in a million other places.