When we place walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, it actually keeps us from doing the very things we most desire: to love and live freely. But tearing them down is no easy task, and often we need help—something we aren’t usually too eager to seek. It’s easier to stay hidden behind the walls of our pain, afraid that if we risk reaching out to others, we’ll reinjure our fragile spirits.
Dawna Hetzler knows that truth firsthand. During a conversation with a friend, her friend commented on how difficult it is for women to be real and vulnerable with one another because, she admitted, “We all have walls around our hearts.”
The woman’s honest confession stuck with Dawna and she began some self-evaluation. “I couldn’t get that wall image out of my mind,” Dawna says. “Was it true that I worked under those conditions as well? Was I avoiding real and transparent relationships because I had erected walls around my heart?”
That realization put her on a path to figure out how to break down her walls and help other women do the same. Soon she started a group called The Jericho Girls, in which women meet monthly to encourage and challenge one another to work through those vulnerable areas. The result has brought her—and many women—deep healing, freedom, and joy in their lives and relationships.
I first met Dawna through our column-writing work with Positive Note magazine. I found we had a lot in common. For instance, I like the mountains, and she lives in them. What are the odds? We’re both huge animal lovers. Neither of us is a morning person so we both need lots of coffee to get moving, thinking, and possibly even breathing. And we both seem to have been born with the uncoordinated gene (I’m sure that’s the official scientific term) that allows us to trip over our own feet.
But we also share deeper interests and commitments, such as a desire to inhabit the grace and joy that life with God offers—and to help others discover those same opportunities. I wanted to learn more about her journey.
The Jericho Girls group seems like a safe place more women need to go. How has it changed your life?
I thought I was a transparent person, but after a few meetings with the Jericho Girls, I soon identified my own barriers. One of my biggest obstacles was that I’d erected a wall of esteem—I placed my identity in how much I could do. Because our self-worth is found only in God, I realized that I needed to break down that wall. As I did, I found this amazing freedom to be able to love and risk being vulnerable and real. But most important, I relearned that God loves me as I am—not because of what I do or don’t do. I also learned how to build healthy walls, one being boundaries, which has been life-changing.
Why do you call the group The Jericho Girls?
In the Bible, there is a story about how the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho and God brought those walls crashing down. So we too need to identify the walls in our hearts, understand that most of them are there because of fear, and then let God bring them down!
You wrote about this experience in your book, Walls of a Warrior?
Yes. I wanted other women to discover and live in the freedom that I and my fellow Jericho Girls have found. Now hundreds of Jericho Girls meet to discuss their walls and to pursue authentic relationships. That’s all God. He’s so much bigger than we believe. And he can do so much more than we can imagine.
Seeing women’s lives changed must bring you a lot of joy.
It really does! Other than being on a beach with my husband, David, and unplugged from the world, my greatest contentment comes from speaking into the lives of women. We have so much to offer one another.
Speaking of reaching out to help others find freedom, you do that with animals too, I understand.
I do. I have an amazing soft spot for rescuing dogs—especially Siberian Huskies. I have two rescues right now: Mya and Zorro. They have strong personalities and can be stubborn, which reminds me of myself. They’ve taught me about unconditional love and how not to hold a grudge. They’re so forgiving, which is a lesson I need to be constantly reminded of.
Animals have a special way of breaking down our walls!
They really do. I think God uses them to remind us of his love for us.
In what way?
He is the ultimate unconditional lover. I believe we all need to be constantly reminded that God loves us. You and I are seen, known, and loved by the God of the universe. When we feel hopeless, he is the God of hope. If we feel forgotten, he sees us. When we are at our most difficult moments and are tempted to keep our eyes focused on our circumstances, we can instead lift our eyes to the One who transcends all circumstances. And at the end of the day, we can rest in the knowledge that He loves us. He loves me. He loves you! When we grasp even a minute portion of that truth, our lives change forever. What amazing grace.
** To find out more about Dawna, Jericho Girls, and Walls of a Warrior, check out her website at DawnaHetzler.com.