Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Bubble-Wrapped Heart

God has been speaking to me lately about my bubble-wrapped heart. In my last post, I shared a God-story that I also shared with a large group of women at my church. In it, I talk about my older daughter, and how devastating her death was to me. I also talk a little about my son. I didn’t go into too much detail there, but if you read between the lines, you’ll know how devastating his circumstances have been to me as well. I also lost my mom to cancer when I was 19… and my dad when I was 39.

I’ve had plenty of heartbreak in my life (and I know I'm not alone in this), and I’ve worked very hard at allowing God to do his refining work through that heartbreak. But God is revealing to me that my response has not been all good.  I can now speak of my older daughter’s death, my son’s trials, and other painful life stories without batting an eye. As I tell my stories, I hear people gasp… I see them weep. But I rarely shed a tear.

I hear other peoples’ stories of heartbreak because, let’s face it, we’ve all got them, and I still don’t shed a tear. Sometimes, I cry out to God, “What do you want me to do?!” But I don’t feel or show much sadness. Now, I am very animated. I wish I could be calm and grounded and speak with great wisdom. But I get excited, flail my arms and bob my head. I pound on tables and words come out quickly and loudly. But I don’t like sadness. I think I lack compassion.

I think my heart has been so broken that, over the years, I have tucked it safely away like a precious, but broken piece of China. It will never be exactly the same, but I don’t want it to break anymore. I found a box the perfect size and plenty of bubble wrap. I carefully packed it up, wrapped the box with tons of packing tape, and put it as far down in the basement of my soul as I could go—safely out of reach. Nothing will hurt it there. It won’t be broken any further.

But the past few weeks, through several different books, Bible studies, sermons and life experiences, I fear God is wanting me to bring my heart up to the main level, peel that packing tape and bubble wrap away, and make my heart vulnerable again. Oh I don’t want to do it!

But in my pastor’s sermon this weekend, I hear things like, “Prayer means letting God’s creative love touch the most hidden places of our being and prayer means listening with attentive, undivided hearts to the inner movement of the Spirit of Jesus, even when that Spirit leads us to places we would rather not go.” --Henri Nouwen

And in the book of Nehemiah, a study by Kelly Minter I just started, I’ve read things like, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” When was the last time I sat down and wept? (I posted to this blog on that day in Today I Cried.) But when was the last time I mourned and fasted and prayed for some days?! Five minutes here and there maybe, but not for days. And Nehemiah was weeping, mourning, fasting and praying over something that was going on very far away. It didn’t really even affect him. He was living in a winter retreat of the Persian King! Yet he allowed God to break his heart for his very distant relatives back in Jerusalem (where he had probably never been).

I have friends and family members who deal with pain… severe physical pain… all the time. It never goes away. I have friends who struggle with severe financial issues. I have friends and family who struggle with addiction. I have friends who wrestle with grief after the loss of a loved one. I have friends whose marriages and families are on the verge of crumbling. I feel bad for them and I pray for them. But do I really pray for them? Do I allow myself to feel their pain? Do I weep and mourn and fast and pray for them for days? Do I allow God to touch the most hidden places of my being? How can he when my heart is covered with bubble wrap?!

There are millions of people enslaved throughout the world—including the U.S. Millions! We thought slavery was abolished centuries ago, but it is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Little girls are stolen, lied to, abused and pimped out. Is that not enough to make me weep? Is that not serious enough to make me want to get involved?

Millions of people are starving to death in the world. Disease runs rampant, leaving orphans who have absolutely no one to look after them. Is that not enough to make me weep?

SoulShift, (Steve DeNeff and David Drury) a book our pastor is currently preaching on, says,  “Jesus doesn’t want us to just obey him; he wants us to think his thoughts after him. Jesus is calling us out of the noise of voices to the silence where his voice is known. This is a place of listening!” This is the place where my heart must come out of the bubble wrap.

And, “We must learn how to listen when God is speaking, not merely ask God to speak when we feel like listening.” Ouch! That is why I am sitting here typing today. God is speaking and I am trying to listen by putting down the words I hear stirring in my heart today.

And, “Before the shift we might ask: ‘What does God want me to do?’ (a questions I’ve asked again and again) ‘After the shift we listen to what God wants me to become.’

‘Before the shift we ask God for signs.
After the shift we notice how God strengthens our wisdom to decide…’

‘We learn not to ask, ‘What should I do?’ Rather, ‘What is important to you?’

“We stop asking, ‘Why am I in this mess?’ (My question goes more like, “How did we get here, Lord? How did things get this bad?”) and start seeking to bring honor to his name in every situation.’

SoulShift and Nehemiah and my pastor are telling me, to stop asking those questions and start listening to God’s still small voice until I begin thinking His thoughts, hearing his voice resonate through mine, wanting what He wants, knowing where He is moving and joining Him there.

This is going to require unwrapping my fragile, cracked, chipped, but yet still precious, broken heart and allowing “God’s creative love” to touch it… even when it leads me where I don’t want to go—maybe even to tears.

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I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!