Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Wall in My Heart

Today I am going to write about something that God is working on in my heart. If you are here for the laughs--this is not your day. You might as well just stop reading now because what I have to write about is not funny at all. It may just be more than you really wanted to know about me. It could even cause you to examine the condition of your own heart, which is probably in better shape than mine, but still might have some room for improvement. The good news is this: God is a great heart surgeon. No matter how severe the heart disease, because of Jesus...the prognosis is always hopeful.

A few months back, while I was on a retreat, the Lord began to show me a little wall that I had carefully built around my heart. It is a nice, neat stone wall, not too high, entirely circling the place in my spirit where my emotions are seated. I built it years ago, while growing up with a terminally ill sister. It was a coping mechanism that allowed me to go about living my life while I watched my sister lose hers. It was a barrier that allowed me to feel some things, but protected me from feeling others. My sister died 11 years ago, but it wasn't until last April that I heard God say to me, "Mrs. Williamson, tear down that wall!"

My first response was, "What, that little thing?" After all, I am a sensitive person, often called tenderhearted, my heart must not be in too bad of shape. "Besides, it's a cute wall. See the pretty flowers I've planted around it?"

That wall is keeping you from fully knowing me. I'm going to take it down.

Next I tried reason. "But God, It's sort of a structural thing. If I take down that very little, unobtrusive, sort-of charming wall, I'm not sure what else might tumble. Really, what is it hurting?"

That wall is keeping you from fully obeying me. I'm going to take it down.

So then I thought I would appeal to God's sense of justice."God, my wall is not nearly as big as other people's. Shouldn't you be more worried about them? Mine is just tiny. Hardly noticeable. Not worthy of your attention."

That wall is keeping you from fully trusting me. I'm going to take it down.

I made my last appeal, raw before my God. I revealed my deepest, darkest fears: "Lord, I don't want to go through the pain or loss that I will have to go through in order for you to tear down my wall. I am afraid of losing my husband or kids. I am afraid of losing my faith."

That wall is keeping you from fully loving me and fully knowing my love for you. I'm going to take it down.

I still did not surrender. I just stopped having the conversation, hoping that if I ignored the subject it would go away. I know. Not very smart, but that was my response. Nevertheless, the truth of God's words was eating away at me. I wanted to fully know God, to fully obey God, to fully trust God, and to fully love God. All my life I have sung songs to Him like, "I Surrender All" and "It is Well with my Soul" and thought I really meant the words. I wanted to mean them.

So I began to analyze my little wall. Why is it that I will allow myself to enter only so deeply into another person's pain? Fear of pain. Why do I shut down my emotions at a certain point? Fear of grief. What would happen if I just gave my heart to God without reservation? I don't know. But that is what He is asking of me. Finally I began to pray this little prayer. It wasn't much, but it was all I could do:

Lord, show me what is on your heart today, and help me to care about those things.

That was it. That has been my prayer all summer. Sometimes I even meant it. It was really a white-knuckle prayer for me, because I would pray it, cringing, and then slowly open my eyes, expecting my world to have crumbled as a result. I assumed God wanted to destroy everything and everyone I ever loved so that I could become more compassionate. I believed that any minute He would take His giant sledge hammer and pound it fiercely into the wall around my heart, inflicting me with tremendous pain and agony. Then He would expect me to "consider it pure joy" as I "walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil." Really, who wants that? Not me. I wanted the trust, the love, the good stuff. I just didn't want to endure what I thought would be God's methods for bringing it all about.

But God, once again, surprised me. His ways are not my ways. I will never cease to be amazed by the gentleness of His Spirit and the tenderness of His grace. Last Friday I went to my kids' school to work on a grant. Or so I thought. When I had been there five minutes, one of the teachers received an emergency phone call from her husband. After taking the call she came in to the office, where I was working with the principal, closed the door, and burst into tears. She had just learned that her brother had committed suicide. At first, I wanted to sneak out. This was none of my business, and there was nothing I could do. But God held me to my seat. Finally, the principal, who had been hugging the devastated teacher, invited me to join them to pray. I got up and slowly put my arm around the woman who had been my son's teacher last year, and I let her sobs become my own. We wept, not Hallmark commercial tears, but gut-wrenching, chest- heaving, snot-snorting, heart-breaking tears. And then we prayed. But really, we didn't need to use words, because as I held that teacher, I knew that God was holding us. He was weeping, too.

At that moment, I think I knew God a little more. I trusted Him a little more. I loved Him a little more. And I felt His love for me a little more.

Driving home, I was dazed, still praying for that teacher, amazed that I had been in the room at that life-changing instant. Holy ground. Grief-filled, pain-inducing holy ground. And then a picture flashed in to my mind. It was a picture of Jesus, carefully taking down one stone from the wall of my heart. No sledge hammers. No dynamite. Jesus is going to do this all by stone at a time. And I am going to let Him.

1 comment:

  1. Precious friend- I love your honesty and how you create such beautiful word pictures. You are a true gem! I miss ya friend!