Not sealing, HEALING

For PJ's recent birthday, Dave's parents gave him a Bears helmet and jersey (and he and Jake have been running plays in the living room ever since :)). This is Dave's dad adjusting the chin strap before a "game."

“Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

I “get” the hymn writer’s meaning. I’ve read a bit of his background. He was a man who struggled with doubts. He eventually lost his faith.

So, in that sense, I, too, pray that God seals my heart.

But yesterday I sang that song and I got a vivid picture of myself holding my heart out to God. “Here, Lord, keep it safe.”

And then, like the camera had zoomed in, I got a look at the object in my hands. Deep fissures cut through its surface. Rather than a healthy red, it was mottled with blue, green, and a white that looked like congealed fat. Swollen and puffy, it made me think of rotting chicken breasts.

It was unhealthy, incapable, and sick.

Sin is, according to a couple of the Greek definitions, a “missing the mark,” a “falling short.” My own riddled-with-sin heart is sinful because it is too diseased to “hit the mark”: to be true like God, to do good like God, to love like God.

And the heart I saw in my mental picture wasn’t just a little sickly. It was diseased through and through. “Oh, with THAT heart, God, how do I love anyone? How do I keep from slipping into despair?”

Paul asked something very like this: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

But he also had an answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I sang the hymn again, but I changed a key word. I don’t want my heart sealed like THAT! I actually want a NEW heart, one infused with health, able to love and LIVE, to hope and rejoice.

“Take my heart, oh, take and HEAL it, heal it for Thy courts above”

Who will deliver me, both for eternity AND for this here-and-now life?

Thanks be to GOD, for He has and He WILL. He is the donor and the surgeon. He performed the initial transplant, giving me His own heart, and He is vigilant about follow-up care, making sure I do not reject the very thing that gives me life.

Ezekiel 36:26: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (KJV)

Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” (KJV) (emphasis mine).

No wonder He is called the Great Physician.


Legalism and heartbeat

I’m a recovering legalist—with lots and lots of lapses. My determination to pull everything together in one neat little bundle (I see it all the time in my blog and journal entries—I like tidy endings) is my attempt to find answers and figure things out. I hold onto this hope that at some point I’ll “get” it, I’ll “arrive.” I run around like I’m in a funhouse mirror maze, looking for the reflection of the “me I’m supposed to be,” but all I find are distorted images, and my heart races from the stress and the disappointment.

I’ve been trying to focus on a different image lately, that of Christ as the Lamb of God. It’s less elusive than the “me” image I can’t find, but it’s still puzzling because HUMANS are described as sheep in Scripture, and the implication isn’t a compliment. Sheep are generalized as dumb, easily duped, following whoever promises the shiniest deal of the moment, unable to distinguish what is best, rushing headlong, hearts racing and straining, into destruction. Not able to defend, attack or run away, not able to do much of anything. Just dumb, helpless beasts VERY, VERY much in need of a shepherd, but unwilling to submit to one.

And Christ became a sheep like us—like me. He put on limitations and weakness; He became defenseless, open to temptation.

But He is also a sheep UNlike my kind of sheep, because He accepted His Shepherd as His Shepherd. He drew near to Him like a beloved lamb.

This reminds me of the lamb in the story Nathan the prophet told David after David stole Bathsheeba. “And he (the owner of the one lamb) brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him” (II Sam. 12:3). Is that how Christ grew up with God? Like THIS lamb? Not going astray or reaching outside his limitations (self-imposed in His case), just resting in the arms of His father, growing up with Him, waiting, following and trusting like a small child.

That’s hard for THIS poor, stupid sheep. It’s not only hard to DO, it’s hard to see, even though God’s given me four very immediate examples. My little sheep don’t spend hours worrying about how to please me. They don’t look over their shoulders constantly wondering if I’m going to disapprove. In part this is because they KNOW me—because they’ve spent a lot of time with me. It’s also because they are free-er than I am. They know there is restoration, there is love. When they “mess up” (or when I do), we get it all sorted out, end with hugs, and move on—knowing better and better what really DOES please and honor each other. This brings to mind the statement Christ made: If you humans know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more the Father in heaven. If our flawed human family (with me, Mrs. Legalism, as its mom) has somehow bumbled into some good knowledge of what love really looks like, then can’t I trust that God knows, that God loves?

I spend more time trying to figure out how to please God than I do just getting to KNOW Him. One of my friends pointed out that there is a huge difference between seeking God’s will and seeking GOD. The object is very important.

I’d like to be the little lamb in Nathan’s story, curled up next to God’s chest, listening to His heart beat its steady thump, thump, thump, its neverending message of love. “Stay here, stay, stay, stay,” is the message in the beat of His heart  Bit by bit, my own heart’s racing, skipping arrhythmia gets overwhelmed, smoothed out, settled. Bit by bit, I’m no longer consumed with some image of myself because my heart is becoming more like God’s—which, as I know from another time in King David’s life, is not concerned with appearances.

I am a little lamb, being brought and grown up along with God’s other children. I am eating from His morsel and drinking from His cup. I am lying in His arms. I am His daughter.

May my heart beat like His.