A Hard Heart

When we first installed our granite countertops in our kitchen, I was delighted. They were my first. I loved the beauty of the natural material. The smooth, glossy finish that wrapped the perimeter of my kitchen. It gave the entire space a luxurious feel. They were solid, impenetrable and beautiful. But within the first few days of having them installed, there were several casualties to my collection of dishes, glassware in particular. Even the slightest brush against this new surface and a fragile glass was doomed. It didn’t stand a chance against the cold, hard granite. So my cupboard of glasses grew thinner and eventually, additional drinking vessels had to be purchased.

Hard things. they serve their purpose and in the appropriate application, function well and are quite useful. But some things were not intended to be hard, though they can grow to be so. Hearts, for instance. Just like the forming of that granite slab, exported from a quarry somewhere, after multiplied years of essential elements of time and pressure, my heart had been undergoing a similar process. A collection of disappointments, life circumstances forcing changes I hadn’t signed up for, and a spanse of time where I’d mishandled discouragements, my own heart had begun to atrophy. And harden. And to put it bluntly, I was having a stand-off with God!

It takes special tools to extricate a several thousand pound rock from the ground, hewn it into a slab that can be fashioned into a useful piece. Similarly, it takes special tools to reverse the process of a hardening heart. These tools are known intimately by the Lord, for He alone knows the secrets of the heart. the Bible admonishes us, “guard your heart above all else, for from it flow the springs of life.” When the time comes to deal with a heart issue, the tools and means God uses are an expression of his creativity and tender care that is personal to each of his children. In a recent dealing-with-my-heart moment, God found access to my steeled heart by a most unexpected means.

Jon was back in the hospital again, having endured multiple years of a relentless cancer battle and various surgeries. This was a visit that occurred on the heels of his most recent surgery, just days earlier, and landed him in the ER due to complications. He and his wife were somewhat vaguely aware of some of the discouragements I was processing, but could not have known the extent of the looming issue of my hardening heart below the surface. We were barely past pleasantries when my friend began to probe about how things were going. And he wasn’t settling for my packaged “standard” answers to his inquiries. The kind of answers we script to conceal our true feelings, neatly compressed to the back of ourselves for fear of them leaking out and finding expression, possibly in the form of tears! I was able to avert his penetrating questions for awhile and we talked about other things momentarily, but eventually, he persisted about possible need my family might have. “Angie is there some way we can pray for you?” And that innocent, tender inquiry was the death blow to the self-protective callous around my heart that had formed in past months to deal with the pain of discouragement.

It must have surprised him. Tears abruptly stung my eyes and I leaned forward from the foot of his bed where I sat in a chair, stunned and indignant that he would have the audacity to inquire of my need! In what felt to me like a rebuke as it tumbled out of my mouth, I challenged him for the absurdity of such a question! And from where he was laying there in his hospital gown, only days out from a surgery that could have claimed his life if his cancer didn’t beat it to the punch. But Jon is no stranger to suffering or the Lord. He understands the human soul and is not fooled into believing that the external trappings of a deteriorating body and medical equipment is any indicator of real need. He knows the truth that other people in supposed optimal health, but apart from the Lord, are in a far more dire state than he. And he wasn’t distracted by the fascade I’d subconsciously propped up when I arrived at his door that day either. Jon was an instrument in God’s hands. His frailty and apparent weakness would be the tool God would use to search out a fissure in my rock-hard heart. In the case of granite, powerful mechanized equipment is required to extricate rock from the earth. But God’s ways defy human sensibilities. The timing and tools of his choosing are often unexpected, but non-the-less effective. In that moment, Jon and I traded places. I was the patient. I was the one undergoing a surgery of sorts. The gentleness and concern of my brother in Christ, brought about a breaking open of my own heart that was required in order to find my spiritual bearings. And let the Lord do the work of softening my heart once again.

Ezekiel 36:26 And 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.