Hearts of Stone, Hearts of Flesh

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” 

If you saw Disney hit Frozen a few years ago, you may recall King Agnarr’s advice to Elsa as she struggled to live with her special powers, “Conceal it, don’t feel.  Don’t let it show.”  Fear-based advice.  Bad advice.  That gives us an armored heart . . . and a frozen Nordic kingdom!  When our hearts are armored we are in a self-made prison.  Much like King Agnarr in Frozen, we think this will keep us safe and protect us and those we love.  There is much in our world that says this is the safest way to make it through.

Our thoughts might go like this, ’If you don’t know the real me, you can’t hurt me.’

If we don’t feel too much, or care too much, or get invested too much, we just might make it through this life without our hearts being broken.  Chinked a little but not really shattered.  Not the type of broken that buckles your knees, makes you fight for the next breath and makes you say, never again. 

Armored hearts Brené Brown calls them.  Through the prophet Ezekiel, God calls them, hearts of stone.  Armored hearts, hearts of stone, start to look like our best option.  

But God wants better for us.  God has always wanted better for us.  

God wants hearts that beat and break with the suffering of others.  Hearts that are transformed for compassion, for caring, for loving enough to have these very hearts broken.

In Christ when our hearts break, they break differently.   When your heart is broken and so is mine, and so is yours and yours and yours and so is the heart of Christ. When we pick up the pieces and start to put them back together again, I’ve picked up some pieces of yours, and yours, and yours, and you’vepicked up pieces of mine, and we’ve all picked up pieces of the heart of Christ.

God breaks our hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh.  Broken.  Open.  Whole.  Brokenhearted.  Openhearted.  Wholehearted in Christ.  

He was a Good Man

In honor of Father’s Day, let me share a bit about my maternal grandfather.  I’ve learned a lot from him and as I learn more of his story and piece things together, it is clear that he was a resilient man.  A man who understood from childhood that, “Hope is a function of struggle” (Rising Strong, 202).  He was kind even when others hadn’t been kind to him, he was generous even when others hadn’t been generous to him, and out of these hard beginnings - that could have made a person bitter and resentful - he wanted to bless the world and those around him.  God would bring good out of this struggle.  My grandpa didn’t use the word ‘bless,’ that wasn’t how he talked but his actions blessed people with his generosity, service, and humility.  This was how he fulfilled a promise he had made to God when he was only boy. . . .   And apparently, this was a promise he never forgot he had made. 

My maternal grandma gave me one of her Bibles when I was college, I still read it today.  It has been re-bound once and needs to be again.  The hidden treasure are the notes in my Grandma’s script.  And next to Psalm 112 are these small words climbing up the side of the column, “This is an excellent description of my dearest Ervin.”  The words that inspired this note from my Grandma?

“Even in the darkness light dawns for the upright, 

for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,

who conducts his affairs with justice.

Surely he will never be shaken;

a righteous man will be remembered forever.”

I thank God for my grandpa’s memory and for all the reminders around my house - and all the homes in our extended family - of the book shelves, dressers, coat racks, and magazine racks that he made once he retired from farming.

My grandpa was a good man.  And sometimes I think those are the best words that can be spoken of a person.  Perfect?  No.  But I believe he did the best he could with what he had.  He was a good man.  And for that, I say, thanks be to God.  

Could this be . . . Contentment?

A New Strange Feeling

I don’t think anyone who knows me well would use the word ‘content’ to describe me.  I was the college student who joined ev-er-y club because I liked to be busy.  I was the runner who decided to get back in shape by doing a couch-to-marathon.  Tim and I were the couple who built their own home. . . literally designed, wired, sided, painted, trimmed the whole thing.

 A year ago in May when our family went to see our church’s production of Into the Woods, I had this strange . . . new feeling.  I wasn’t sure what to call it but I think it was contentment.  You see, a decade before I had been the Baker’s Wife in another production of Into the Woods, and, oh my gosh, this is one of my favorite musicals.  I had thought about auditioning for our church’s production but the season, for many good reasons, just wasn’t right.  I wondered if, honestly, as I watched my friends dance and sing if I’d be jealous and long to be on stage with them.

That could have happened; it has happened many times before in a variety of scenarios.

But a different emotional response was pulled from me; a seldom recognized emotion which I’m pretty sure was . . . contentment.  I was happy for my role in the audience, holding our son, clapping and laughing and going to multiple performances, inviting other friends to join us.  I wanted the woman playing the Baker’s Wife to shine and be amazing.  I was grateful for how each of those performers show up.

In Scripture, there is the call to trust in the Lord and to trust God's timing for all the seasons of life.  As Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  Jesus took time away to pray.  There are seasons in our live's when God calls us to remember, "Not now.  The time isn't right.  You don't need to force things."

A year later, and now our daughter and I are both in our church's musical.  What a blessing from God to be singing and dancing together!  

Could it be when we start practicing self-compassion, we give ourselves and others, the gift of contentment?  I am enough.  This is enough.  Right now.

*  The "In this Real Life" series are personal reflections on God's good work and the impact of practicing skills Brené Brown and other thought leaders in real time.