God Broke My Heart

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  "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26

Throughout my whole life, I wanted the flesh heart that Ezekiel talked about.  I remember this verse and being intrigued by the idea of a real heart in terms of the interior life.  I knew that I had a physically real heart beating within my chest, but in terms of my spiritual life, the landscape of my heart looked more like a stone mountain range instead of a fertile planting ground for God to take root in.

So I took my desires to adoration and prayer and began to ask God to give me this real, fleshed out spiritual heart for His plan and will in my life - even though it would mean having to daily, if not hourly, combat the pride that stood in the way of the destruction of my cold, dead heart.

Yet instead of giving the hammer to God and asking Him to do exactly as He said He could, I pridefully took control of the hammer and began to chip away at my own heart.

Chipping away was probably an optimistic overstatement.  It was like I had a huge boulder to break down inside of my soul, but instead of pulling out a jackhammer and dedicating every waking moment that I had into smashing that stone encasement to smithereens, I was scratching at it with my fingernails in my spare time.

It wasn't working.  The stone was still there and but I was hurting, aching, longing for anything different.  Although it was cold and hard, the stone was at least familiar and comfortable.  Having a flesh heart would hurt - the vulnerability and lack of control of a tender heart scared me to death and I was content with my stone.

"Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them." - Fulton Sheen.

God had the incredible ability to, if he so desired, simply glance at my stone heart and do the shatter-and-replacement mission in a split second.  Yet He, out of complete love for me and the desiring of my good, chose to break my heart first so it would mend and bind to His heart in the healing process.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, the character of Eustace, an English school boy, is turned into a dragon because of his selfish desires and hardened heart to his role in the Narnia quest.  There is a beautiful scene that resonated with my own story within the pages of the book.  Eustace returns to camp, transformed back into a boy, and tells his cousins the story of his transformation.

I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sorts of things and snakes can cast of their skin.  Oh of course, thought I, that's what the lion means.  So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place....

Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - You will have to let me undress you.  I was afraid of His claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right through my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure feeling the stuff peel off.

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only even so much thicker, and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been.  And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why, I'd turned into a boy again.

When Eustace tried to scratch away his dragon scales himself, he readily admitted that it hadn't hurt.  It was only when he lay vulnerable to Aslan's claws, although they terrified him, that the transformation back into His real self was possible.

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is the only religion that makes sense out of suffering.  In light of the cross, the suffering that we have is transformed and redeemed into a beauty from ashes.  Because Christ's death is outside of the limits of time, each time trials or hardships are placed in our spiritual journey, we have the unique opportunity to unite those sufferings with those of Christ crucified.

My heart isn't all the way transformed into it's best-version-of-itself flesh state.  There are still many areas along it's surface that are rough with calloused, hardened stone that God is still ripping off and breaking off in front of my eyes.  And, like Eustace's transformation, I look at the pieces of my stone heart that lie in front of me, knowing that those are chunks of stone that would have taken me decades to smash myself.

God is good.  

I feel like I say that everyday, but it is the only phrase that my simple heart can utter in light of the incredible mercy and grace He has shown me.

The process still stings, but when I'm thrown into the waters of grace through confession, the pain is but moment and the joy is life-long.  And the tender heart that God is slowly transplanting into my chest is one of the most beautiful things that I have seen - tender and vulnerable, but protected by His hand and heart in ways I could have never imagined.

 

 

 

 

The Ache

My TOB Twin 

Last Thursday night I had the incredible honor of getting to hear one of my favorite authors talk on one of my favorite subjects.  Theology of the Body, Sex and God.  Can we just pause and relish the beauty of that combination and the fact that Christopher West spoke on a stage that was literally less than 30 feet away from me?  Or the fact that I was surrounded by almost four hundred primarily college aged men and women who were striving for sainthood alongside me and were interested in the same subject?

Christopher West spoke on a beautiful variety of subjects, but one that has hit me over and over this week while processing the whole talk was about how we live in a world that tries so desperately hard to distract us.  Christopher talked about a time during his college years where he did a miniature social experiment of his own, and decided to stay sober for one weekend of the school semester.  He wanted to see what his crazy life looked like from an outside objective opinion.  What he saw shocked him.

He talked about how his roommate came home so sick to his stomach from excessive drinking that he passed out in their living room on the floor when he walked in the door.  He talked about witnessing the rape of a young woman and being so shocked at the lack of respect for human beings and their inherent worth that he couldn't do anything about the rape situation...and how he still regrets that to this day.

Striving for Sainthood with these amazing people 

Have you heard Alessia Cara's new song Here? It's relatively new to the music scene and is actually what they call a "sleeper hit," or a song that has had quite a bit of air time but no official promotion or sponsorship.  It's a song that sneaks onto the airwaves and makes a huge wave, despite the fact that no one really knows the singer, but can connect at a deep level with the lyrics.  And boy, does Alessia's lyrics ever hit home in today's culture.

Alessia sings about her experience at a party that she really does not want to be at.

But since my friends are here, I just came to kick it.  But really I would rather be at home all by myself, not in this room with people who don't even care about my well being.  

How did it ever come to this? I should've never come to this.  So holla at me, I'll be in the car when you're done.  I'm stand-offish, don't want what you're offerin' and I'm done talkin', awfully sad it had to be this way.  

Oh  oh oh here, I asked myself, what am I doin' here? Oh oh oh, here oh oh oh.  And I can't wait 'til we can break up out of here.  

Whoa.  Talk about an honesty hour.

I don't know what your weekends look like.  Maybe they're a lot like mine and involve sitting around with good friends and large cups of coffee, chatting about life.  Maybe they involve hours spent in the library, pouring over that one last final that you are so close to finishing.  Perhaps they're spent distracting yourself from something whose ache and hurt has rooted itself deep within you at a soul level and you just want a moment of relief from it...so that you can not think about it for just a few precious minutes.

If that's where you are at, if you're in the "here" that Alessia sings about and Christopher was shocked to his core about, then the amazingly beautiful thing is that Christ isn't throwing in the towel on your relationship with Him.

That ache that we want to get away from, to numb ourselves from, to escape from, is an indication that something that can fill that ache is out there.  And we spend a lot of time trying to fill an infinitely deep, God-shaped hole with finite substitutes.

“In essence, Christ’s life proclaims: “You don’t believe God loves you? Let me show you how much God loves you. You don’t believe that God is ‘gift’? This is my body given for you (see Luke 22:19). You think God wants to keep you from life? I will offer myself so that my life’s blood can give you life to the full (see John 10:10).

You thought God was a tyrant, a slave-driver? I will take the form of a slave (see Philippians 2:7); I will let you ‘lord it over’ me to demonstrate that God has no desire to ‘lord it over’ you (see Matthew 20:28). You thought God would whip your back if you gave him the chance? I will let you whip my back to demonstrate that God has no desire to whip yours. I have not come to condemn you but to save you (see John 3:17).

 I have not come to enslave you but to set you free (see Galatians 5:1). Stop persisting in your unbelief. Repent and believe in the good news” (see Mark 1:15).” (Christopher West) 

Run to Him.  Get out of "Here" and into His heart.  Find those along the way who are striving for His heart and push you to His side.  Be Not Afraid