Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hollowed and Hallowed Hearts

I recently listened to a friend tell part of their life story.  It's been a while since I've heard something so unfair, so hateful, so hard, so, just, wrong that's happened to someone who's followed God faithfully for so long.  It makes my sense of justice scream out, "No!" Or makes me at least just want to slap the person who caused it really, really hard.  (Good thing I'm not God! But I remember that people who hurt have been hurt as well.)

But while this person has endured the winds and storms of life and past events still affect today in ways, they also have a lot of traits of, "a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither." (Ps. 1:3)  Strong, steady, a person of depth, who knows the Source and has a huge heart for others.

I've long since let go of the idea that being a Christ follower makes you immune to the problems of this world.  'Victory' and being an 'over-comer' look quiet different than how they are often presented.  It's often more importantly about the destination inside than visible external victory.

But I have a lot of questions:  Why do the 'good', the innocent, the humble, the helpless have terrible things happen to them in this world?  Elisabeth Elliot who has walked a convoluted road herself wisely said, "Faith does not eliminate questions.  But faith knows where to take them."

To His throne. To His feet.  And I think it's about the expansion of our hearts.

We're in a stage of regrouping and reorganizing.  What we thought were our long-term plans have clearly, unavoidably been redirected into something else.  And while the process hasn't been easy, we're enjoying overall where we're at now.  We're moving into our own house soon that we look forward to renovating together, we're enjoying new friends, Steve began a new job last week, and we're getting a chance to focus on our family.  Plus, what's not to love about Algies Bay, Warkworth, New Zealand!  If you've ever been here you know what I mean.  A little slice of Heaven.

Last week we got to listen to a team from our church that had just returned from Kolkata, and as the pictures started flashing up on the screen, all I could do was sit in the back and cry.  Grief, so much more than a place, an investment of hard work, and a way of life; but memories and people. The sense of loss still felt surprised me.

A few days later I was in the checkout lane at Kmart happily scanning a shopping cart full of kitchen necessities to set up my own home soon.  The thought crossed my mind, "This reminds me of setting up house in Kolkata."  Starting from scratch.  Being very happy with just the basics.  I paid the cashier and turned around to see my boss from Kolkata standing there with his daughters.  He'd flown into the country for just a few days on his way to somewhere else.  Seeing 'family' even briefly is always wonderful, but as I walked away my heart hurt.  A lot. His family living just across the lane from ours and rubbing shoulders daily.  Other co-workers permanently nestled by love in my heart, not to mention the precious ladies that we served.

Happiness and heartbreak.  How do they so easily co-exist?  My heart just a bit more stretched.

When I first got back to New Zealand I expressed to someone the feeling of being 'scooped out'.  Like there was a huge empty hollow in my chest.  The painful scooping was still in process, but I knew that the 'filling' was to come.  Expanding my capacity to love, to feel compassion, to hold the hand of those who hurt, to extend grace.

Grief, pain, loss, and heartbreak all hurt.  But they also stretch and expand the capacity of our hearts.  And if we let it, make us more able to love.

In the middle of the enlarging we often want to ask;

 "Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

    Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”  
(Ps. 77: 7-9)

But the psalm goes on to say, 

"Your ways, God, are holy,
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles."
(vs. 13-14)

He's capable of doing so much, but sometimes the miracle He's performing is mainly in our hearts.  Growing them, changing them, molding them, expanding.  A true miracle indeed!

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory."
(Is. 61:3) 

Pain, mourning, hurt, and sadness can be a like seed planted in our hearts.  Put there to grow into something good.  Like a tiny, little, rotting acorn:

Small, insignificant, growing into this:

"Look to the Lord and his strength;
continually seek him." 
(I Chron. 16:11)

We need to embrace the 'seed' that He plants in our hearts and become 'great oaks' for His glory.    And when we know hard things, even when they seem pointless, unfair, just plain wrong, have a purpose---they can become that much easier to bear.  It's about the victory inside.  The one that we will take with us into Eternity.  And the outworking of our expanded heart for the world around us today.

Another one of our Kolkata co-workers wrote an amazing poem about the women that are served there. One stanza says:

"I pray that you will meet the God who is found 
in both the heartbreak and the hope.  
God with you in the moments of pain crying out for it to end, 
God on the cross.
God with you in the moments in which new life springs forth from unexpected places, God resurrected."

-Dan Lander

Yes. For all souls, for them, for you, for me.  For us all.  Expanded, resurrected hearts drawing others to Hope.