It has been a long while since I have sat down to collect my thoughts and here is the remedy:
I’ve been trying to draw water from a dry well.
I’ve been wrestling for some time with a withered heart.
It needs hydration before it turns to dust.
At least that is how it feels.
It feels as if it is a raisin in my rib cage.
Something is wrong.
My heart doesn’t beat as it should.
See I’ve been draining it out, but forgetting to get it refilled. Thinking there will always be time for that later, I put off the refueling for another day that never comes.
That day never comes because the more my heart is withered the more I become o.k. with it.
A withered heart is an apathetic heart and apathy immobilizes even the best of the dreamers, movers and shakers of this world.
A withered heart forgets the feeling of a full heart and so continues on. Apathy tells me that I don’t need to rest, to refuel, to recharge.
My heart is heavy laden and withered.
As core as the heart is to all that we do it is surprising how unaware of its condition we can become.
Yet that is what has happened here in this heart.
It does not beat as it should.
It does not hope as it should.
It bears a weariness that I cannot lift.
There is occasional relief, but much like the tide it ebbs and flows. The source of the relief does not waver, no it is myself who is doing the wavering.
At times I stand apart from the tide, thinking to move on my own and carry my burdens in solitary.
Other times I draw closer to the tide and every time it splashes over my toes I am surprised at the relief and release I feel.
But the tide is messy.
It cannot be confined.
Its splashes where it will and when it will.
I either need to resign myself to getting wet or withdraw altogether. There is no partial place. It is either all or nothing. And yet I try to toe the line, and thus the weary heart.
Still even in this in-between place, One calls out saying “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:18)
Ah the word! Rest. For the weary and heavy laden there is no sweeter word spoken than “rest” especially when the One who utters it is the provider of such a rest that truly restores and revives.
Buchner in Urban Simplicity puts far better words to the weary withered murky heart feeling I have been recently experiencing. Frederick says it like this,
“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead, we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”
One of the glorious miracles of God’s love is that He refuses to let us stay dormant, stagnant, apathetic, withered, worn down or checked out. He moves and we either move with Him or get left behind. He does not stumble over our refusal to move though His heart breaks to see us stay in ruin.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:19
He welcomes us to take part in His redemptive plan. He is always there ready and waiting, but He does not stop working when we stop engaging Him in relationship.
For this I am ever grateful.
He may take drastic steps (i.e. making streams in the wasteland, calling us to follow Him out into the wilderness), but He is worth following. Bad things will happen (loss of loved ones, loss of possessions, loss of safety) but He always brings good out of it.
And so it has been in my life, so it will always be.
Entering into my second year of the “great Florida transplant and new job” I am waging a different kind of battle. Year one was all about being new, figuring out what this next step really is, finding my feet as a church leader and leaving the comforts of familiarity behind. It isn’t like I went to Africa, Russia or some far off land, but Satan has a gift for making it feel like that sometimes. His gift is isolation and it is a gift I all too readily receive. I am battling the consequences of that gift this second year.
And so the withered heart, the hopeless heart.
And then God.
Just that. God. God who is still good and still in control, still present and at work in this withered, dried out heart. He enters, He speaks, He moves. He is.
He speaks the same message over and over. The same promises, words and truths are repeated. Like seasons they are faithful and yet somehow always I am surprised at their arrival.
He spoke recently through a women’s ministry breakfast known as Bagels and Blessings (or Muffins for Jesus as the male staff like to call it). The topic was joy. Something I have not been feeling or choosing to live out lately.
My mother (Thank God for Mothers!) recently commented on my loss of joy and that fact that I allow Satan to steal my joy away. So the message of the women’s breakfast was very well received: Choose Joy despite circumstances.
What better answer for a withered heart than Joy?!
God spoke again through a video blog. The president of the C&MA has been sending out monthly a 12 min long video message to church leaders. They are exactly what we need. They remind us of the bigger picture. They get our focus off of parking lot problems, volunteer issues and bulletin announcements. Every month President John Stumbo speaks honestly and openly about what God has laid on His heart. He reminds us that we are about God and about making Him known to those who are lost.
His message this month was about taking time to receive instead of just giving. Taking our focus off of what we must do and noticing what has been done for us and how God is blessing us.
What better action for a withered heart than to be filled instead of drained?!
So as we enter the darkest part of the year let us be light.
As we are surrounded by friends and family let us bring joy, hope, peace, love, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness and self-control (maybe just self-control with christmas cookies?) into those relationships.
May the darkest time of the year be filled with the best.
May we come out of the dark not drained, but revived.
Not hopeless, but hopeful.
For the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
As an early New Year Resolution I will paraphrase a friend’s recent fundraising motto:
May we enter this new year painting the darkness white with Light. (http://paintitwhitewithlight.com/)
As for the weary heart I will rest, I will choose hope and joy,
I will wade deep into the waves,
I will move with the One who is doing a new thing,
I will follow Him into the dark places and paint it white with Light.