3rd [“Official”] Blog Post in AU. August 2, 2011
This is sort of meant to be a counterbalance to my last post (“The Wellspring of Life”).
Before diving into this post’s content, please prepare yourself to do some deep down heart analysis. Get your journal, get a Bible, and get alone.
Ask yourself the following:
Do you keep yourself and keep people at a distance?
Do you keep up a good front but struggle to be real?
Are you able to show your emotions?
Do you feel like you always have to keep it together?
Are you known to be “the strong one”?
Do you find it difficult to ask for help?
Do you resist change?
Do you find it easy to minister to others yet struggle to be ministered to?
Do you tend to wish other people could keep it all together like you can?
Do you look down on others who express emotions because it seems immature or weak?
Do you have difficulty receiving love or intimacy?
Many times, these things can be subconscious. They are symptoms of having a ‘heart of stone.’
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
-Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB)
Over the course of this past week I have been listening to the ‘Heart of Stone’ sermon from Emanate pastors, Alyn and AJ Jones. As the week led into the weekend I kept praying about, obviously my own heart condition, but also whether to blog about this particular subject. Various conversations and another relevant sermon confirmed and complemented my rumination.
I think it is safe to say we all have areas in our lives where we don’t want to let people or emotions in. In Alyn and AJ’s podcast, AJ gave examples from her own life. I especially related to her when she would use the term “bracing for impact.” There were times when God would bless her with something amazing - a new car only $300 above cost because the car dealer was a Christian and knew her full-time ministry salary couldn’t afford the average sales cost. However, she would not get excited. She would tell herself, “Don’t get excited. If you don’t get excited, you won’t be let down if it falls through.” That is even how she handled her engagement to Alyn! Since she had previously been married and her first husband walked out on her, she began managing her heart in such a way that she wouldn’t allow the excitement and joy to overcome her for fear that Alyn might leave her too. For non-married folks, I think that can be the same in dating relationships or in the period of considering whether to date someone. One has to figure out whether they trust the other person, but also if they can get past fear or other anxieties that now exist as a result of experiencing the failure of previous relationships and the mess of all its complexities when that relationship fell apart. In that time of waiting and wondering, it can almost be an instinctive response to brace for impact because of being unsure whether that person mutually cares for you or how s/he would respond to your affection. We put our faith in disappointment rather that Christ.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
-Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
When we brace for impact we rob ourselves of the joy in those circumstances! We don’t live freely in giving God glory for His provision, we don’t bask in the glory of experiencing something good that we have waited on and has now come to fruition. Bracing for impact robs us from living in the good things about what is right now. We have begun looking too far ahead or comparing to what was rather than appreciating what is present.
In the same way, I find that most Christians live sheepishly in their areas of gifting. I fight through it daily! We think we are being so humble by denying it when someone points out our GOD GIVEN strengths!
“But, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” [Jer. 9:24] For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
-2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (NIV)
There is a difference between improper pride and recognizing what the Lord has given you. When we live with false humility, we suppress our God given gifts from bearing fruit that should be springing forth to glorify the Lord in the expansion of His kingdom and/or the strengthening of His people.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
God didn’t design us with such vast individual qualities and capabilities so that we could blend in with everybody else or just get by in a mediocre workplace or livelihood. We were meant to bring Him glory and part of bringing Him glory is living in the fullness of all He has for us. We have to recognize God’s authentic character and all we were made for; that He backs us up with power and strength when we live in fellowship and obedience with Him.
In the same way we can keep people at arm’s length, we tend to keep the Lord at a distance. In my own experience I have found that the way I handle human relationships and circumstances tend to be a direct reflection of the way I am in relationship with God. When I push away from either parties, it is usually to guard myself from being vulnerable in whatever shape or form vulnerability takes in that context. I don’t like to ask for or accept help/generosity very often (heart of stone symptom!) because it can be difficult to believe that people just want to help or give without any strings attached or expectation of being paid back in some form or another. I don’t want to be seen as greedy or needy or inconsiderate of the other person’s time, energy, or resources. When I don’t allow God to be my help, it is often because I don’t trust him to deliver (even though He will never, ever betray His character) and usually feel incredibly unworthy of His abundant grace and unconditional love.
How many lies have been surfaced here?! How many pretenses do we live in about ourselves, each other and about God? It is so healthy to take time out of our schedules for the sake of understanding why we are the way we are instead of just accepting our tendencies as natural.
Look back on your life and ask God to reveal any situation that may have been the catalyst for building walls up around your heart. It could even be something that happened in early childhood or even infancy. You might be surprised at some of the random circumstances that can be brought to light: things you may never even think about can surface as being the root cause. Forgive whoever played a role in hurting or disappointing you. Let go of what happened; it has passed.
Ultimately, when that is said and done, we must break down the walls and press in to what is ahead for us. Allowing God to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh is risky. You have to be willing to stay vulnerable and risk being hurt or disappointed again. However, I find the uncertainty is worth it. Why? Besides the fact that it will make you a healthier individual internally and relationally, living without walls allows the Lord to work in your life beyond the limitations that were once set inside a stony heart. Living with a heart of flesh allows God to be Himself- to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine.