My heart has been slowly petrifying, inch by rocky inch, for quite some time now. At first, it was just numb. Then, right as it started to soften and feel again, chaos entered our lives with an untamed fury. I tried to keep up with the chaos as best as I could, but it was a stage full of whirling dervishes to my one woman pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey show and eventually I got tired of all the spinning. If I couldn’t keep up, I could at least go numb. I could escape. Only my life is such that I can’t physically escape without serious consequence. So I escaped emotionally, mentally. And spiritually, I hid. Because I knew I was, all at once, frighteningly numb and blindly spinning out of control. So I hid. I didn’t just try to wrap myself up in a couple fig leaves. I buried a hole in the ground and spread a truckload full of those babies over the top of it. And then I climbed in.
I stayed in that hole for several months. I told myself I wasn’t there. I told myself I was listening, and if the Lord had anything to say, He’d make it known.
What we tell ourselves is such bull sometimes.
I finally started to climb out into daylight, but it was a slow climb, and there were a few stalls along the way. I emerged last week, squinting and stinking and covered in mud, and no matter how many showers I took, no matter how hard I scrubbed, I just couldn’t feel clean. I couldn’t feel new. I felt old and tired and hard.
Then I read Spurgeon, and he said I could have a heart of flesh, and he described the heart of stone and the heart of flesh, and if I’d had a heart of flesh right at that moment, I might’ve done more than wince at the description of the stone heart and its posture towards its Maker. Instead I prayed, yes, Jesus, give me a heart of flesh. (And by the way, good luck with that.)
Saturday found me weeping and grieving over these lost months and just how far that pit had carried me from my real life. I felt like a failure, like I’d finally begun to walk in my calling, and I’d made this bold declaration that I will spend my life in His service only to let myself be blindsided. I was pretty sure that meant I’d missed my chance to do what I long to do, what I love to do, and to have it really mean something for the Kingdom. But at least a tiny little part of my heart was beating hope, so I asked God for a word – what do I do now?
The next morning, Craig preached about Peter. He started to tell the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and he said, “The truth is, we all fail. Every single one of us fails.” Clink. The chisel chipped away at my stone heart. He talked about how we can allow our failures to define us and sideline us, or, like Peter, we can accept forgiveness and healing and restoration so we can get on with the lives we’re meant to live. Clink, clink. He talked about the lengths to which Jesus went, not only to let Peter know he was forgiven, but to actually give Peter an opportunity to affirm his love for Jesus. And Jesus in turn affirmed Peter’s calling, not once, but three times – once for every crucifixion day denial. Clink. Clink. Craaaack.
I had asked for a word, and He had given a beautiful one and it was seeping way down deep into my soul and all that stone in my heart was crumbling and turning to ash on mercy’s wind.
But the enemy doesn’t like to lose, so it’s no surprise that today began with a stunning blow to my heart. It was a terrible revelation of betrayal and deception and sadly, it confirmed a truth that I’d spent months hiding from in that pit. I cried. I railed. I prayed. And at the end of the day, I sat exhausted, staring out the window, and it was almost as if someone was standing right beside me, asking, “So. You’re probably gonna want to go hop in that pit again, right? I mean, this is really all too much for you, isn’t it?”
My sweet friend Bill says that the enemy always overplays his hand. He always goes one step too far in attacking us, and it only serves to drive us further and more quickly into the arms of Jesus. I remembered what Bill says, and I thought about how ludicrous it would be to climb back into that filthy pit, and I laughed out loud. I felt joy. I felt peace. I felt freedom from that dark, dank hole in the ground. I felt like myself again. And for the first time in a year, my heart didn’t feel stony and numb. It felt strong and big and full of grace.
It felt like a heart of flesh.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.