"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heart Surgery

This weekend I submitted myself to a heart examination. No, I didn’t check into a hospital or sit in a doctor’s office. Physically my heart is pumping blood like crazy. Spiritually, however, deadly problems lurk in the deep recesses where no one can see but God himself.
Annually a group of women travel to a distant monastery. Yes, I said monastery as in silence and solitude. We contemplate in stark rooms adorned with a crucifix. Our assignment is to unplug from all the distractions of technology: cell phones, computer, television, and read, rest and re-assess our hearts. While we have a little bit of an agenda including some group time, the majority is spent in the silence of our rooms or a walk outdoors or attending vespers or mass.
Moving from clamor and conversation to solitude and silence is difficult. At first, the quiet bothers me. It distracts my concentration. I can’t focus. My mind wanders down rabbit trails. It flits and flutters about like a butterfly, not resting on any particular subject for more than a second.  I look at the clock repeatedly. I have two hours before dinner, which speeds by quick as a wink when I’m at home taxiing kids to and from events, running errands in between and needing to create some sort of concoction to feed the family. But here? Two hours is eternity. I hardly know what to do with it. Do I read? Do I write? Do I take a walk in the unseasonably warm weather? I settle on slumber. Never do I take the opportunity to sleep during the middle of the afternoon, but I give myself permission today. My heart hurts, I’m tired and I want to shut out the world.
When I awake, my heart is still filled with ugly. The events of this past week have drained and dragged me down. My heart is consumed with anger, worry, fear, feelings of failure, insecurity, sadness, hopelessness. The roller coaster of life jarred me again, and I should know better. I know the Truth. However, my emotions blared much louder, drowning out the truth of God’s word, who He is and what He can do. So, I discover myself again in this place where God needs to root out my heart sickness. I read through Psalm 51:10-13,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew
A steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways…”
My devotion reads that only God can “create” or “bara” my heart, and how I need him to perform that surgery in me. I’ve been vomiting caustic emotion everywhere this week, and yet, I’m still sick. I’ve sunk into depression like the psalmist in Psalm 42:5:
“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.”
How do I climb out of this funk, let go of the junk contaminating my heart and let God heal me? What’s happening in my heart shows in my actions and words; it affects my family and my friends. Proverbs 4:23 states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring (everything flows from it) of life.” So, I’ve let my guard down and let the muck and mire in. I’ve wallowed in the mud with the pigs like the prodigal son. The stench, like Pigpen in Charlie Brown, announces my arrival before I enter a room. Do I really desire this to be my modus operandi? An event triggers certain emotions and the pool of my heart begins filling up with anger, aggravation and anxiety. Every.single.time?
As I spent a day and a half processing and praying, a tiny bit of peace perched slightly above my heart, like a tentative bird at a feeder.  It sat hesitant, unsure, because other emotions still had squatter’s rights. Kelly Minter, in her book The Fitting Room says, “Peace has to be fought for, especially when hurt feeling and wrongs are barring its way.”  Isn’t that the truth? Frankly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to trade in my worry for peace. Somehow, worry caused me to believe I could control the situation. In the end, I cupped worry, fear, failure, anger and the rest of the gang in my hands and held it up to God.
“God, I can’t do this anymore. I need to give this to you.
Be my Peace.
Help me let go of worry that robs me of truly resting in You.
No matter what storms rage, allow me to experience Your peace—
Your peace that passes all understanding guarding my heart
And my mind in You.”
Yes, His peace will guard my heart and my mind, protecting me from the lies of an enemy who tells me I deserve to harbor bitterness and anger, to saturate myself with feelings of failure, to fill up with fear. When I immerse myself in Him and His truth about me, I expose the Light to my heart allowing God to perform spiritual heart surgery. Again, Kelly Minter writes, ”My truest peace has to do with God’s presence and what He says is true about me, not so much with everything holding together just so. It has little to do with my external circumstances and everything to do with the voice and nearness of God. I can have peace amidst tumult if only I have him.”
What emotions have been filling up your heart?
With what circumstances do you need to entrust Him?
Ask for His peace. Cling to Him.

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