Inner Vows, Auto Fortress 101


The problem is, a heart sometimes hurts. And when it does, it goes into auto-fortress mode.

Jesus had some things to say about our heart. In Luke 6:45, He was unmistakably plain when He stated:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil (Greek- ‘hurtful’) man brings evil (‘hurtful’) things out of the evil (‘hurtful effect or influence’) stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

If only our heart would stick a sock in it sometimes!

Problem is, hearts hurt. And when they do, they go into auto-fortress mode. Hello, Inner Vows – the promises we have made to ourselves in order to protect our heart from hurt. Promises such as:

“I will never get angry” (like my father did).

“I will never trust anyone ever again” (because they always lie to me).

“I will never be like _____ or do what _____ did.”

“I will make others give me _____” (something I didn’t get) or “pay for _____” (something of my pain).

“I will always be strong” (because I get in trouble for being weak).

“I can’t cry” (because it shows I’m weak; so I can be accepted as ‘one of the guys’; it’s embarrassing…).

“I won’t make mistakes” (because I get punished / humiliated / shamed when I do).

“I will always do everything perfectly” (because it’s not ok to make a mistake!).

Can you hear the shame-based messages in those bold Inner Vow mantras?

Like a Poker player’s ‘tell,’ Inner Vows give themselves away when you hear yourself or someone else making strong statements preceded with “I will never,” “I will always,” “I can’t,” “I won’t,” “I will…,” etc.

The sad and binding thing is that Inner Vows honor the lie. Whatever we have declared (vowed) we will never, always, will, won’t, can’t be or do – becomes a part of the fortress we erect to guard ourselves from pain. This. Does. Not. Work. Our heart still gets wounded in spite of our efforts to prevent it ever being hurt again.

But what does work are the powerful Inner Vows which, simply put, are another form of bitter roots. Command Central I.V. is like a slow drip in the background, governing how we think, act, and feel.

Before we know it, we have a stronghold of Inner Vows with matching habits we use to fulfill them.

“I’ll just withdraw” may be fulfilled, for example, by refusal to talk when around others (shutting them out) or isolating oneself from others (which makes for a Lonely Heart Club of one member).

Whenever we rely on our own strength (especially through Inner Vows that are operating) we enter our own idol contest, believing we are the only one who can or should control our life. We enter into agreement with the enemy’s lie, which started with Eve of Eden (Genesis 3:4-5). We enter a prison of repeated attempts to control our life responses.

Pffffft. That’s like starring in Groundhog Day. Over and over…

Dear fortressed one, our flesh and our heart fails. How it fails. Yes, I know that’s hard to hear, especially if your Inner Vow of choice is to always do everything perfectly. But we are not left to ourselves, PTL!

God is the strength of our heart. (Psalm 73:26)

He is not a meany out to get us (as we may have vowed about mom or dad, a teacher, siblings or the school bullies), but He does require that we enter into true repentance because He knows it is powerful to the pulling down of the stronghold of the lie we entered into (II Corinthians 10:4).

If it was easy to trade our self-reliance for His strength, we’d be all over it. Be encouraged though, for that which does not come easily does bring breakthrough when we choose to recognize, confess, repent, renounce the lies, and rely on God to strengthen and govern our heart.

There’s more to consider regarding Inner Vows. For now, I’ll leave you with a point to ponder:

Can you think of times you protected your heart from hurt /pain by making a ‘promise’ to yourself? Write down those “I will never,” “I will always,” etc...

Let’s pray: “Father God, I confess that I often default to relying on my flesh and heart, which proves to be frail and overwhelmed and still gets hurt. Teach me, show me, invite me, love me into turning to You over and over again, until practice works within me the habit of relying on You, the only true strength of my heart. Holy Spirit, guide me into all truth (John 16:13), freeing me from Satan’s lies.” Amen.

Written by Nancy Bentz

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