“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
I want a new heart. I long for God to take a chisel and begin the great work of chipping away the crusty layers that have accumulated around my heart. Some of those walls have become mighty fortresses built for self protection and preservation. Others were laid brick by brick made up of guilt, shame, fear and doubt. The heaviness of these wall often press into my chest and make it hard for me to breathe.
The boundaries of our hearts may protect us from being hurt but they also keep us from living a life of beautiful abundance. A hardened heart keeps our relationships at arm’s length. It keeps us from from engaging compassionately in a hurting and broken world. It keeps us comfortable instead of vulnerable. It justifies our turning a blind eye to those in need. Over time, a hard heart leads to us becoming dry, bitter and cynical. Ultimately it depletes our soul. Collectively it leads to crime, lust, corruption and greed. You don’t have to look any further than the daily news to see the profound impact of hearts that have been hardened in this world.
For years I allowed the walls of my heart to keep me from relationships with other women. Past hurts, jealousy and distrust kept me from enjoying the friendships that God had called me in to. I had isolated myself to the point that I thought I needed to move to another city in order to connect to people who were more like-minded. After beginning to fervently pray for authentic community, God showed me that it wasn’t “them” it was me. He led me to a place of humility and vulnerability that ultimately blessed my life with an abundance of rich relationships that I never would have thought possible.
He took my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. Yes, my heart aches at times when I am disappointed by the human nature of others. But the raw beauty of these friendships have been a source of strength and support in my darkest hours and have led me to pursue a deeper passion with my Creator.
Our hearts are God’s masterpiece. It takes a lifetime for the beautiful sculpture to be revealed in the block of stone. With the tender and careful precision of the Sculptor’s hand, our hardened hearts are transformed to a new and beautiful creation reflecting the image of Christ.
LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE. That perfectly sums up the Gospel. It is the Truth of who Jesus is and the reason for our existence on this earth. The two commandments go hand in hand, we cannot love God without seeing His heart for humanity. We are called to Love Him with the totality of our being and to love others wholeheartedly just as He does.
God recently fulfilled a long time desire of my heart to go on a mission trip to Africa. No amount of reading or internet images could have truly prepared me for the extensiveness of the poverty and brokenness. It was astonishing. I spent the first day or so questioning God and how He could have abandoned and forsaken these beautiful people. But the more I sat with them, talked with them, touched them, laughed and ate and prayed with them, the more I realized that they don’t feel hopeless and abandoned at all, in fact they are more aware of the depth of the Father’s love than most Americans I know.
Their worship is beautiful, they dance and clap and sing to their Creator. But they also really know how to love each other. They walked for hours each day to visit with us, they prepared and served us meals that they could not afford to feed to their own family. They held our hands as we crossed steep ravines and captured our hearts with their smiles and their capacity to love with abandon.
In Matthew 25 God identifies Himself with the poor and suffering. He tells us that when we love on them, we are loving Him. I am not sure who “the least of these” were on that trip to Kenya; “them”- the extremely impoverished, or “us”- the spiritually bankrupt. The one thing I do know is that when we obey the commandment to love, then the eyes of our hearts are open to the riches of His glory and we get a glimpse beyond the veil and into the heart of our Heavenly Father.
I am a heart girl. I am not one to act from the intuition of my gut or to over analyze situations, clouding my mind with data. My heart is my core. My heart leads me. I tell my yoga students all of the time, “I don’t really care about your bodies. I mean, I want your practice to be safe, but if we can open our bodies and by doing so access our hearts…that is what I want to get to.”
The word heart is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible. In fact, the only words mentioned more are God, Jesus, and Lord. It is obvious that the God of the Universe is profoundly concerned with our hearts. And it is not the physical heart that is written about in Scripture, it is the spiritual heart. Not the brain or lungs or liver, no other part of our human flesh holds the capacity of our heart to be the powerful central essence of our innermost being.
Dr. Rollin McCraty has studied the power of the human heart for decades. He has found that “the heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in the body…The electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than brain waves. The magnetic component of the heart’s field, which is around 100 times stronger than that produced by the brain..can be measured several feet away from the body.”
Y’all! That is the Power of the Holy Spirit! He chooses our heart space as His dwelling place. It completely blows me away to think about the power of the Living God taking up residence in my heart. We truly are living, breathing, walking, talking holy temples.
When we shift our focus from thinking and doing and busy-ness and constant activity, when we get still and quiet and breathe, we are giving space to the Divine. When we tend to that space in our hearts, when we posture our hearts in alignment with His, we become image bearers of the Holiest of Holies. And when we lead with our hearts, when we bow down before Him in obedience and follow the call to worship and love, the heart of Jesus is made manifest on earth.
God longs for our hearts. He doesn’t long for our actions, or our service or our words, He longs for us to engage our hearts in Him. He is seeking true worshipers and He longs to fulfill the desires of our hearts.
But what we think we want and the true longing of our hearts are oftentimes different.
We have hopes and dreams so we set goals and priorities and we strive and plan and strategize and ambitiously work day and night towards accomplishment. However, so often after reaching the goal….we get the job, we buy the house, the car, the boat, we take the trip…we still feel empty and vacant.
But God calls us into a life of abundance. And when we seek Him first, delight in Him, and make Him our first love- only then do we begin to have clarity around the true desires of our hearts. And it is never about the external but always the eternal.
*To be truly known and still be LOVED.
*To feel PEACE in the midst of chaos.
*To have HOPE for our future and for the future of those we love.
*To have a deep sense of JOY despite the inevitable suffering of this world.
These are the true essence of our desires. Our souls long for love, peace, hope and joy but when we seek them outside the realm of our Heavenly Father, even the loftiest dreams fall short.
When we seek Him first and move from the core heart space of desiring HIS Love, Peace, Hope, and Joy…all things become possible. When we align our hearts with the heart of our Father, there is a paradigm shift and His desires become the deepest calling of our being. The things that once seemed so worthy and important become shallow and meaningless in light of the lavish gifts that our Father pours out for us.
“We are desire. It is the essence of the human soul, the secret of our existence. Absolutely nothing of human greatness has ever been accomplished without it. Not a symphony has been written, a mountain climbed, an injustice fought or a love sustained apart from desire. Desire fuels our search for the life we prize.” – John Eldredge
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24
Nobody enjoys criticism. We don’t ask our friends, family or spouses to “point out” what is wrong with us. Most of us (especially women) can, at any given moment, conjure up enough self criticism and condemnation to strangle any glimpse of joy right out of our hearts and souls.
We find it much easier to stuff and suppress the mess and not look at it for what it really is…
It’s an uncomfortable subject. I’d much rather write about love, and grace and mercy and kindness. I’d love to gloss over sin and the implications of it in my life. Personally, I don’t even like the word sin…it seems antiquated and churchy, something you only hear from the pulpit of TV evangelists. The word sin conjures up feelings of guilt, shame and judgement. We have become much more comfortable with words like disease, dysfunction, disappointments and disorders, words that are easier swallow and to justify.
Call it what you will…when left alone sin can build up layers around our hearts that separate us from God’s goodness. It has the power to debilitate, divide and destroy. The tighter the grip of sin on our hearts, the less we are able to breathe. The long term effects of sin can impact generations.
We are called to confess…to lay it all bare at the foot of the cross. We are called to stand before Jesus and own our brokenness, our messiness, our failures and disappointments. We are called to ask Him to search our hearts and break us free from our chains. He isn’t interested in only the cleaned up, polished and spit-shined parts of our hearts, the parts that we strive so hard to show the world. He wants it all.
Asking God to search our hearts and show us our transgressions can be daunting. But He calls us to do the hard work of peeling back the layers of our sin…not so that we can wallow in self condemnation, but so that he can change us, restore us. We have no choice but to look at our own darkness in order for true transformation to happen.
“In pursuit of your wholeness, God needs your whole mess.” -Brooke Boon
“Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart….rend your heart, not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”Joel 2:12-13
“Please. Let’s stop. Let’s pause a while and allow ourselves to be reconciled to God.”
Each year during Lent the church body is called as a whole to gather, confess, fast, pray and return our hearts to the loving arms of our Father. I don’t know about you but for me, this needs to happen daily…not just annually.
By design we stray. Even with the best of intentions. One minute I am reading my daily devotion online. The next, coveting the beauty of an arm balance posted on Instagram by someone I may or may not know and moments later I find myself surfing the web for the perfect pair of Spring sandals.
Satan can just sit back, relax and watch as the world we live in constantly pulls me away from Jesus. Temptations abound. Rather it’s the latest fashion trend, health food craze, exercise regime….I am guilty. And in my narcissistic messiness I even justify the desires (obsessions) as self improvement….a necessary part of human growth right? That whole “be your best self” concept?
Umm, not so much. It only takes a moment to become enslaved to your idols. One thing leads to another, the sandals need a dress, the dress needs to fit or else be perfectly accessorized, maybe a new hairstyle would distract others from noticing that the dress is tight? Sound familiar? We can so easily find ourselves caught in the endless web of consumerism and self improvement that we don’t even remember what the daily devotional was about.
But here’s the thing. Even when we walk with our backs completely to the sun, we still feel it’s warmth. Our Father doesn’t abandon us for our frivolousness, He doesn’t punish us when we stray. Instead, He woos us, beckons us, calls out to us “Return to ME with all your heart.” And when we do, He embraces us and all of our mess.
Don’t misunderstand, there is nothing inherently wrong with dresses or shoes or Instagram. But when we turn our hearts and our time and our energy to whatever, we are inadvertently turning our hearts away from God. We are looking for fulfillment in the temporary and not the eternal. We will never find it and the harder we look, the further we stray. A lifetime can easily be lost in the downward spiral of dissatisfaction.
Or we can stop. Pause. For a moment. And turn our faces towards the Light, we can bask in the Glory of His warm embrace. He is calling us back to Him. Again and again.