Fleshy heart

Years ago my heart was hurt by a friend.  The next day I learned that another friend had been beaten up by a mutual acquaintance.  The beating happened because my friend’s boyfriend paid the other girl to beat up his pregnant girlfriend, so she would lose the baby she was pregnant with.  I had no space emotionally or mentally for this kind of action.  The world felt overwhelming.

With a heart overwhelmed I listened to Petra’s song “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” probably a literal 100 times over the next week.  Letting the words be my prayer since I was past words to pray.

“Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened”

[Based on Psalm 95:7-8, Hebrews 3:13]

Don’t let your heart be hardened – don’t let your love grow cold
May it always stay so childlike – may it never grow too old
Don’t let your heart be hardened – may you always know the cure
Keep it broken before Jesus, keep it thankful, meek, and pure
May it always feel compassion – may it beat as one with God’s
May it never be contrary – may it never be at odds
May it always be forgiving – may it never know conceit
May it always be encouraged – may it never know defeat
May your heart be always open – never satisfied with right
May your heart be filled with courage and strengthened with all might
Let His love rain down upon you
Breaking up your fallow ground
Let it loosen all the binding
Till only tenderness is found
Through the years I have returned to the song as a prayer, and when I came across the prophet Ezekiel’s words about the Spirit removing a heart of stone and giving a fleshy heart, the words reverberated another prayer for having a tender heart.  This became another place to return when my heart felt hard.
 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a] 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
So today on the way home I felt tears about the smallest of human interactions, and I was listening to Mumford Sons’ Hopeless Wanderer, and the lyrics tripped over my stony heart/fleshy heart prayers
So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road
But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
The skies I’m under
I am a wanderer at heart even though this season of life doesn’t let me wander geographically, and I wonder if I’m not also a “prone to wander” soul.  It seems the Lord has answered those teenage prayers with the song and the life refrain prayers from Ezekiel 36 to keep trying to soften my heart.
My heart has been hard for awhile.  Hardened in a turtle or snail retreating into its shell kind of way, and today on the way home I realized I’m not so protected by a shell anymore.  And I forgot how being unprotected feels; it hurts.  Small things prick.  And I had to smile at the hurt because it meant that the Spirit has changed out my heart.
It seems I’m in a Eustace phase.  I couldn’t scrub away the scales, so the Lord did.  He used my family, my counselor, His Word, and friends to help clean off the hardened spots, and then His Spirit took off the layers only He can.  If you haven’t read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis, this will describe in a beautiful way what I feel is happening in my life:
“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 sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. 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. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.
“But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.
“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 to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever 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. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.
“After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me –“
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No. It wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund.
“Why not?”
“Well, there are the clothes, for one thing. And you have been – well, un-dragoned, for another.”
“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.
“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.
Lumineer’s Stubborn Love says:
It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs
So keep your head up, keep your love
Keep your head up, my love [x2]
Keep your head up, keep your love
Love requires pain, and it’s better to feel pain than to feel nothing.  It means love is present.  Tyler Milley showed me the stair steps below.  He suggested that after something happens, and I feel hurt, I can step back down.  But if I don’t pay attention or settle the hurt, fear comes, and then anger, bitterness.  At any point I can step down by acknowledging/dealing with the hurt, fear, anger, and bitterness.  This simple stair step has been incredibly useful to show me what’s in my heart.  My journal is full of these.
So today I celebrate the Lord doing what only he can in fleshifying my heart, and I’m thankful for the people who help me scrape away what I need to and to figure out how to step down.

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