Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Thoughts on the Heart ... and a dream I had last night

I woke up this morning thinking God was going to break my heart one of these days.

I don't do much self-examination. I don't really want to look into the rag-and-bone shop of my own heart. And I certainly don't want to do that in public. Here, look what I found in my heart. Ugly!

But I'm still thinking about Isaiah 57:14-21. God speaks of the heart often in His Word, and He speaks of it there to Isaiah. He speaks of a backsliding heart ("backsliding in the way of his own heart," v.17), a contrite heart ("contrite: 1. caused by or showing sincere remorse. 2. filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement; penitent"), and a comforted heart (producing praise, v.19).

Everybody has idols. I take that as a given. These idols live in our hearts. We create space for them there, like a shelf a bowling trophies in the basement.

But maybe that's not the right simile. Too static, too stationary, too dead. Idols move. Think will-o-the-wisp. Something you chase but never really catch. Producing, not praise, but frustration, despair.

Example: Adam and Eve chased the idol of personal autonomy. That's a motif of the Scriptures, is it not? People chase after personal autonomy, freedom from restraint, but in fact they never really find it. We never catch up to that idol. We just go on chasing and chasing, our hearts set on something that it cannot catch, but the chasing--which is nothing if not habit-forming--can nevertheless occupy us day and night. It can make us very cold and hard, or wily, deeply deceptive. Think Frodo and the ring.

The "backsliding" heart is the idol-chasing heart. The contrite heart is the heart of one who, having chased and chased, now falls to his knees in hopelessness, realizing all the damage his chasing has done. The contrite heart is the broken heart.

And to this heart God promises comfort. And the God-comforted heart is the heart that draws near to God. The heart that worships.

I said in a recent post that we are all somewhere on this spectrum. We are all either backsliding, broken, or drawing near. But we have to break. To lose faith in our idols can seem a devastating experience. This is the kind of heart-breaking that only God can do. It is an aspect of his mercy, but it burns. "As on who has come through fire," is, I believe, an apt description of the way we all experience salvation.

One more point. And this is the point I really wanted to make from the start. This "breaking" is not a one-time experience that leads us to God once-and-for-all, from whose side we never again will stray. Nope. On this side of the Kingdom, it's just never going to work that way. In the kingdom of God there will be no false idols, no turning away, no thirsting for water from other wells than the well of the one who sees you and knows you through and through. But until then, given the nature of our hearts, even the best of us--the model believer--flees from God and after idols, hides in the shrubbery with some paltry leaves covering his sin when God comes calling. This is important. We are not the lovers of God that we think we are, that we often portray ourselves to be. As others have said, our hearts our idol factories, and it is the mercy of God to break our hearts, for they need breaking, again and again.

So, when we pray for the Kingdom, we should realize that this is the way it comes. We are all traitors at heart.

So, anyway, last night I had this crazy dream. I was walking around with a partial haircut. One half my head shaved, the other half hairy. I needed to go to a wedding, I think, so I needed to shave the rest of my head, but I couldn't find a razor, and then I did have a razor, but trying to shave with it was fruitless. It was like one of those running-in-place dreams. I just wasn't getting anywhere, and it was very frustrating.

And then I woke up, and I was thinking to myself, God's going to have to break that hearts of yours. Soon.

Come, Lord Jesus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for these thoughts on the heart.
i to have been thinking and writing about the heart.
i do hope i have gotten it right for the sake of those reading first of all.

i know that there are many things every day that can appeal to my heart to chase. and so, seeing as how i do not hide myself in a closet all day to escape the evil in life, i find it most important to keep an open heart for God, even though that means pain, it also means being used and being changed. and as you say, we have been given a comforter for those with an open/broken heart.