It seems I’ve been writing a lot about matters of the heart lately, but that’s understandable when you realize that it is February – the month of Valentine’s Day, the month dedicated to all things heart. So it is not surprising that I should be reflecting on these words from Ezekiel today, where God says to His people, the Israelites,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
This is supposed to be a good thing – a heart of flesh. We often use the expression “soft-hearted” in describing a person and it is meant as a compliment. Conversely, we say someone is “hard-hearted” when they seem uncaring or unsympathetic to the people around them or when they are actually hurtful to others.
This would explain why God wants us to have hearts of flesh – He wants us to have the capacity to care about others. A stony heart can’t do that. A stony heart doesn’t have feelings.
My Heavenly Father wants to give me the gift of a new heart, a new and improved softer heart of flesh. However, I have to confess to you now, dear readers, that I find myself hanging on to my all too often stony heart. Why am I so reluctant to accept this free gift of a new heart, a heart more pleasing to God? Could it be that I am more comfortable with my stony heart? It does afford me a certain measure of protection. Not too much gets through a hard, stony barrier.
Pain doesn’t pierce a stony heart like it does a heart of flesh. So, my stony heart protects me in a sense, from some of life’s heartache. Maybe I don’t want to leave my heart open and vulnerable? Who will defend my heart if it is no longer stone? Do I trust that the Giver of my new heart will also be its defender, protector, holder, healer and redeemer? Or would I rather rely on the accumulated stones in my heart for protection?
Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s too painful to care, too heavy of a burden to carry. Hearts of flesh are wounded so much easier and much more deeply than hearts of stone – I guess that’s why I hang onto my stony heart so hard. It is just too hard, too painful to have a heart like Yours and to care like You care – You must be sad all the time as You watch what we do to each other – and yet You love us still.
It is a courageous calling that comes with Your gift of a new heart – am I too much a coward to accept Your new heart gift and too much a doubter to trust that You will always be there to bind up the broken-hearted wounds inevitable for all hearts of flesh? – which You know all too well, Your own heart being broken for all mankind on Calvary and breaking still till each and every wayward child of Yours finds their way home to You.
Why would You offer me a heart of flesh, knowing how deep the wounds that come with caring will be? Is it because You know a secret both true and sure? – that there are spaces created in the breaking of a heart that Your Presence occupies, filling the heart with joy and gladness, hope and healing, peace and purpose, love that lasts.
A heart of stone, intact and impenetrable, has no wounds, no holes, no broken spaces. Therefore, it has no room for Your Presence, nor room for joy to enter in and settle down. Lord, You know the heart of flesh You want to give me will suffer many wounds and often be broken. But You know this is the only kind of heart that has room for You to come in and make Yourself at home. So yes, Lord, give me the heart of flesh You promised Your people in Ezekiel. Pain must come in order to make room for joy.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
sincerely, Grace Day