Lessons from 33rd STREET jail
Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart!
I’m watching her heart turn to stone before my very eyes. Looking into her clear, green eyes – eyes which have witnessed a lifetime of traumatic abuse at the hands of those she trusted to protect and nurture her- eyes now watering with the effort of spewing words from this cesspool of pain, the wreckage of a broken life, while I pray for words of life to bubble up from the fountain of life within my heart, words that God might use to heal and give hope.
I tell her, “Your bitterness is hardening your heart.” She knows. She prefers her bitterness right now – even though Misery is its constant companion. Her bitterness provides an allusion of protection from this world. But in reality, a bitter and unforgiving heart will only wreak more havoc, guaranteeing future seasons of pain and torment. My words don’t seem to penetrate, but simply slide down the walls she is fortifying.
Why does trusting God seem SO much more painful than wallowing in the ravages of sin? The antidote for bitterness is thankfulness. It’s that counter-intuitive God-thing. Going south to go north – it is going against the current of our human nature.
The apostle James challenges believers to consider (think deeply about, ponder) suffering from a different angle “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work…” it matures and completes us. Our human natures love the short cut, the easy way. There is something holy about perseverance, something that bears the thumbprint of God.
It’s Advent, the season of preparation – preparation for celebrating Christmas. Perhaps the most precious gift we can give is a tender heart, a trusting heart. While I pray for my friend to choose to trust, to experience the gift of new life, I will do some inspecting of my own heart, looking for gravely bits of bad attitudes, rocks of unbelief, some straggly hurts that have been left to molder. The interesting thing about giving this kind of gift of heart-work to Jesus is that it not only blesses God, but it blesses those around us and, most amazingly, it blesses US!! We are the biggest beneficiaries! Now THAT is some kind of crazy, counter-intuitive, upside-down, but WONDER-filled plan!