“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7In the midst of Lent, this unique glimpse into one man’s life has brought new clarity to what my Lenten goals should be: that of a new heart, a heart somehow changed, transformed, refined, rewired, and renewed, softened perhaps -- all with the goal of being what God needs and wants it to be. I wish it were as quick and easy as placing an order on Amazon, something I’ve become entirely too skilled at. My cart would quickly be filled with all sorts of attributes regarding the new and improved heart I would order up.
More gratitude for each new day, even when it begins at 4 AM because my daughter can’t sleep.
More joy for the moments when the monotony of life (time to make school lunches again?) wants to rob me of fully absorbing the present moment.
More patience when my oldest forgets his breakfast (again), my middle guys misses the bus by seconds (again), and my youngest insists on singing a full chorus of her favorite song on each and every step down to the door.
More understanding and empathy when faced with the teenage angst that faces me behind the eyes of my sweet child.
More generosity of spirit. Less of me, more of others.
More hope when fear takes hold and my thoughts threaten to go down the road of worst possible scenarios.
More trust. More trust. More trust.Much like the physical shape of my heart dictates the movement, function, and overall health of my body, after 42 years of continually forgetting (or perhaps denying) this simple truth, it is the strength of my faith and my relationship with God that truly dictates the ebb and flow, highs and lows, of my days, weeks and years. When my faith is not the center, I am walking around with the effects of a clogged artery; my soul is not getting the nourishment it needs to be fully functional. When I put God first however, in all things, life is comparable to the euphoric beat of a heart that just completed a marathon. The concept seems so simple and clear, yet it is often unbelievably difficult to get the rhythm of my heart in line with that of my Creator. For months after my son’s surgery, he went to physical therapy to rebuild the muscle in his knee. It was painful for him at first but after time, the new strength in the muscle replaced the pain. When therapy ended and he was left to his own devices to continue his strengthening exercises, it was difficult for him to dedicate time to what he knew he needed to do. I am the same with the exercise of prayer -- quiet, daily, centering prayer. I fight it like my daughter fights bedtime. It is so much easier to be busy, to get “things” done and to insist there will be time for prayer later. Of course, “later” never seems to come and, left to my own devices to run this life of mine, I inevitably find myself floundering, stressed, and anxious. I do wonder just how many cycles of this 40-day preparation it will take for me to get this lesson to stick. I guess, in the end, that is the human side of me. I am, and always will be, imperfect. The gift, however, is that the One who is perfect in all things -- in His timing, His will, and His love -- is ready and waiting to take over, if, and when, I am ready to let Him. I often picture God looking down at His children, running around and “taking care of business,” messing up time and again, insistent that we don’t need His help. I can just see him shaking His head, wanting to grab hold of us, look us deep in the eyes and ask, “Are you happy?”
Copyright 2018 Nicole Johnson
About the Author
Nicole and her husband have been blessed with three children. Nicole markets the mission of a non-profit that provides early therapies for children diagnosed with developmental delays. She and her husband serve on the board for the New England chapter of Bethany Christian Services, a national adoption agency. Nicole's family advocates for life, adoption, and embracing children with special needs. Visit her blog at Joy in the Journey.