Institutionalized

“We can’t give help when we can’t ask for it; When you feel judgment for asking for help you are, by default, always judging when you offer help because you have attached judgment to needing help; One way judgment shows up is when we derive our self-worth from being a helper.” – Brene Brown

Her words cut through to the core of my condition like a hot knife through butter. I was exposed on both sides (for not asking and for being a helper). I realized that deep inside my heart I was walled in externally by pride and I was imprisoned internally by walls of shame.

shaw-5from the movie Shawshank Redemption… “The man’s been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands. couldn’t even get a library card if he applied. You see what I’m saying? These walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsiFanovOSI

I also have been institutionalized for at least fifty years. I “know” that I am free in Christ, but unlocking all the cell doors from the inside out sometimes takes years to truly experience what Christ accomplished. The older I get I find it is harder to break out of those bars because I can become so set in my ways, but also because the work Christ is accomplishing in me is targeted, specific and refining.

You can find yourself being set free on the same issue for years. At first the doors to freedom were large and visible and Jesus made it easy for you to see your way out. shaw-2However, the longer you journey in those deep inner caverns of the heart the narrower the passage and the greater the granularity of transformation. It is easy to be deceived into thinking the first level of experiencing freedom is the only one that is needed. Many people stop there and it is usually far short from the finished work and they miss out on a series of levels over a lifetime to continually set them free. For example, my parents divorced when I was seven and my heart was broken over losing my dad. I have had some major breakthroughs in my life, but they were intended to catapult me forward into the next chapter of healing my broken heart. I have worked tirelessly in the area of my “fatherless” wound for 45 years. It takes time to get the hurt out and the healing and wholeness in…and it is all worth it!

shaw-7For the past two weeks since I heard Brene’s words I have been working on my jail break, but it hasn’t been easy. The predicament we have been facing is like standing before a wrecking ball gaining momentum as it rushes toward a wall for demolition. It has been emotionally overwhelming, mentally anguishing, physically torturous, and spiritually paralyzing. I have been going to confession with a Priest. I have spoken openly and honestly to the point of tears before a group of pastors I meet with every month concerning at least my practical needs for help. I have written an Open Letter to our supporters letting them know of our present plight.

I have lived behind the prison of SELF…confidence, help, preservation, sufficient, worth, sustaining, etc. One of my re-discoveries these past two weeks is that a jail break is usually predicated upon being broken. The prison of self is incarcerated on the death row cell block of PRIDE. I have refused as Brene said to ask for help and when I thought I was asking for help and I wasn’t receiving any…then I just stayed in a padded cell and yelled out at all those who weren’t helping me. The problem I discovered was that I really wasn’t being vulnerable about MY need for help. So I am with God’s help seeking to humble myself through becoming more vulnerable and personally transparent. To come out of being an institutionalized self-made-man.shaw-6

I have been institutionalized in a solitary confinement cell of shame. Strangely enough shame doesn’t guard you, the cell door is unlocked, but you have to be willing to expose the darkness that you have been hiding in and come out. I allowed my shame to keep me hidden through pretending to be better off than I am, by being a control freak, by intimidation at times, being assertive aggressive in my mannerisms, by always having to appear to have my act together…I think the list is endless.

shaw-3I have also lived as the prison Warden on the watch tower of helping others that were wandering around the prison yard. I have made my living on helping others as a counselor, teacher, coach, and pastor. I love helping people because it brings me so much joy and fulfillment in seeing them be set free, having their eyes opened, by drawing closer to Christ, to experience a restored relationship. Nothing is more satisfying. So then why do I not allow myself to be helped when I am hurting or in need. Again because I want to be judged as on top, in control, and as she said, to ultimately find my self worth in giving, but not getting help. Certainly I am not arguing against Jesus’ teaching that it is more blessed to give than receive, but I do think it is tied into the reality of don’t judge unless you want to be judged. I have not wanted to be judged by anything other than my personal greatness for having my life in order. But it is a lie that I have lived.

Here again is a great example of growth in transformation. My wife will tell you that she believes I am very transparent and honest about my faults and weaknesses, but I know that those areas are the ones where I have already seen major renovation…so again I look like I am more than a conqueror. Back to growth, I really have made significant progress in my life, but what I am experiencing at this time is greater granularity and refinement of my 50 year institutionalized life.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, pray for me a sinner. Amen

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About Michael Welchert

My wife Diana and I have been married since 1985 and have five wonderful children. I have been in ministry since 1980 and we currently reside in the Denver, CO area.
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