God Broke My Heart

 

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26

Throughout my whole life, I wanted the flesh heart that Ezekiel talked about.  I remember this verse and being intrigued by the idea of a real heart in terms of the interior life.  I knew that I had a physically real heart beating within my chest, but in terms of my spiritual life, the landscape of my heart looked more like a stone mountain range instead of a fertile planting ground for God to take root in.

So I took my desires to adoration and prayer and began to ask God to give me this real, fleshed out spiritual heart for His plan and will in my life – even though it would mean having to daily, if not hourly, combat the pride that stood in the way of the destruction of my cold, dead heart.

Yet instead of giving the hammer to God and asking Him to do exactly as He said He could, I pridefully took control of the hammer and began to chip away at my own heart.

Chipping away was probably an optimistic overstatement.  It was like I had a huge boulder to break down inside of my soul, but instead of pulling out a jackhammer and dedicating every waking moment that I had into smashing that stone encasement to smithereens, I was scratching at it with my fingernails in my spare time.

It wasn’t working.  The stone was still there and but I was hurting, aching, longing for anything different.  Although it was cold and hard, the stone was at least familiar and comfortable.  Having a flesh heart would hurt – the vulnerability and lack of control of a tender heart scared me to death and I was content with my stone.

“Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”
– Fulton Sheen.

God had the incredible ability to, if he so desired, simply glance at my stone heart and do the shatter-and-replacement mission in a split second.  Yet He, out of complete love for me and the desiring of my good, chose to break my heart first so it would mend and bind to His heart in the healing process.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, the character of Eustace, an English school boy, is turned into a dragon because of his selfish desires and hardened heart to his role in the Narnia quest.  There is a beautiful scene that resonated with my own story within the pages of the book.  Eustace returns to camp, transformed back into a boy, and tells his cousins the story of his transformation.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sorts of things and snakes can cast of their skin.  Oh of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means.  So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place….

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you.  I was afraid of His claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right through my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure feeling the stuff peel off.

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only even so much thicker, and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been.  And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why, I’d turned into a boy again.

When Eustace tried to scratch away his dragon scales himself, he readily admitted that it hadn’t hurt.  It was only when he lay vulnerable to Aslan’s claws, although they terrified him, that the transformation back into His real self was possible.

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is the only religion that makes sense out of suffering.  In light of the cross, the suffering that we have is transformed and redeemed into a beauty from ashes.  Because Christ’s death is outside of the limits of time, each time trials or hardships are placed in our spiritual journey, we have the unique opportunity to unite those sufferings with those of Christ crucified.

My heart isn’t all the way transformed into it’s best-version-of-itself flesh state.  There are still many areas along it’s surface that are rough with calloused, hardened stone that God is still ripping off and breaking off in front of my eyes.  And, like Eustace’s transformation, I look at the pieces of my stone heart that lie in front of me, knowing that those are chunks of stone that would have taken me decades to smash myself.

God is good.  

I feel like I say that everyday, but it is the only phrase that my simple heart can utter in light of the incredible mercy and grace He has shown me.

The process still stings, but when I’m thrown into the waters of grace through confession, the pain is but moment and the joy is life-long.  And the tender heart that God is slowly transplanting into my chest is one of the most beautiful things that I have seen – tender and vulnerable, but protected by His hand and heart in ways I could have never imagined.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Goodbye Comfort, Hello Greatness

Lent.  We all know it, we all have mixed feelings about it.  But the truth of the matter is that, in a mere thirty five minutes, Lent 2015 starts.

What’s the point?  Why not eat meat, give extra money away, pray more and toss the Alleluia and Glory to God out the window?

We’ll walk around with ashes on our heads and a little spot in our hearts wishing that Easter was already here so we could indulge in that chocolate that we’ve been craving all week.  And let’s not even talk about the Catholic phenomena about how McDonald’s hamburgers never sound good until a Friday during Lent.

But if it’s all just mortification and the ever present message that we’re going to die some day in the not-so-far future, why even do Lent?  It can be depressing, and the weight of the sacrifice can feel incredibly heavy sometimes.  And if it’s all for naught anyway, why even bother.

I’ll let someone with a much more rich theological knowledge help out:

“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God” – Pope Benedict XVI.

The Deepest Hunger.

But how true!  We hunger for food because in this world there is food that will fill our stomachs and stop the hunger.  We thirst because in this world there is water (or coffee, whatever the case may be) to quench our physical thirst.

We crave love because there is an infinite and fulfilling love out there, ready to take our souls by storm and turn our lives upside down with His passion for us.

A passion and desire that God has for us to be with Him that is so great that he He wants to consume our very lives with it’s power.

Not just six hours of our lives until Easter.  Don’t let your lent become something you do when it’s convenient or when you happen to be at Mass on Sunday.

God is crazy in love with you.  And not the feel good warm fuzzy love.  The beaten to an inch of his life, thrown down and nailed on a cross, take every sin that was and will be onto his soul and lay it all out for YOU.

God thinks you are worth pursuing.

And what a beautiful opportunity Lent is – the chance to connect your suffering to the cross and relieve the burden of sin from Our Lord’s back!  The beauty of a crucifixion that exists outside of the human concept of time is the ability that we have to connect our suffering to Christ’s as He hangs on the cross for you.

Don’t let this Lent pass you by.  Don’t sit in the pew on Easter morning and think “Man, Lent went by fast this year!  I missed the chance to do anything…again.”  Seize this Lent as a chance to become a better version of you (thank you Matthew Kelly) and become fully alive.

“The world offers you comfort but you are not made for comfort.  You are made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI.

Let’s make this a GREAT Lent.