A Perfect Heart

 

I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. –Psalm 101:2 KJV

I came across this verse in my quiet time Thursday morning, and it stopped me in my tracks. I’ve learned when that happens – when a verse or a quote lodges itself in my mind – it’s time to SELAH!

Selah, by the way, means to pause and calmly think about what you just read. Actually the meaning of selah is unclear, but this is one of the proposed definitions and the one I prefer, perhaps because I need a reminder to slow down.

So let’s think about this verse.

First, “walk” in Scripture means the way you live your life – what you say, what you do, your actions and reactions, thoughts and feelings.

“Within my house” – now that’s a challenge. Because it’s “within my house” that I let my hair down, let my warts show, and unleash my tongue. It’s where I allow myself to vent, cry, and feel the emotions I shove down deep when I’m with other people but are simmering beneath the surface.

When I spill sugar on the counter or tea on the floor, for instance, my mouth will speak the frustration in my heart. I’m pressed for time because the day’s to-do list is longer than the day. I’m angry with myself because now I have to clean up the spill (perfectly, of course), and I. Don’t. Have. The. Time. It seems I’d rather have a perfectly clean kitchen than a perfectly clean heart.

Even though there’s no one around most of the time to hear me, my words reflect the condition of my heart, and that isn’t very pretty at times.

And so I pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

More often, though, I’m reminding myself to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth …” (Ephesians 4:29).

“With a perfect heart” – now that’s downright scary. How can I ever achieve perfection? Only God is perfect. I’m like Isaiah when he saw the Lord “Woe is me! I am undone!” he exclaimed (Isaiah 6:5). In the presence of God’s perfect holiness, he felt the immensity of his own sinfulness.

Yet Jesus commands us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48), and perfection begins in the heart, where our desires lie.

So, having a perfect heart begins with desiring one, wanting to be perfect as God wants us to be, and not shying away from a command we feel is impossible.

And so I pray, “Lord, give me the desires of my heart. Replace what I want with what You want me to want” (Psalm 37:4).

Sometimes I have to let go of that which He does not want me to want. I’m not talking only about the sinful stuff, but also the good stuff, such as serving Him.

Sometimes we cram our schedules with so much good stuff that it isn’t good anymore. It’s become “just one more thing” on a plate that is way too full. We’re so stretched out (and stressed out), we can’t give each task the time, energy, and focus it deserves because we’re in such a hurry to get it checked off and move on to the next one. Where’s the joy in that?

What’s in the heart is eventually going to come out in your words (Luke 6:45) and actions (Matthew 15:19). So, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

A perfect heart. Is it even possible?

Yes. God wouldn’t require something of us He isn’t going to help us to achieve (see 2 Peter 1:3).

Besides, we don’t obtain perfection on our own. Nor do we attain it in one fell swoop. It’s a process, a transformation that takes place over a lifetime from the inside out, with the work and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

A perfect heart – Selah!

Help me today, O Lord, to walk within my house with a perfect heart. Amen.

Read and meditate on Psalm 101.

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Images in public domain.

 

Pushing Through the Pain

 

 

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. –Romans 8:37 NIV

My 15-year-old granddaughter Madison loves volleyball. So much so that she spent all summer working to stay in shape for the upcoming season. Good thing, because when volleyball practice started, the sessions were intense and physically demanding.

“It’s a good thing you love the sport,” I told her when she described the grueling (to me anyway) exercises she had to do.

Imagine her disappointment when, after the first match, she sustained an injury to her back. She texted me from the chiropractor’s office: “I’m out for two weeks or longer.”

Then, on top of that, a sinus infection kept her home from school the day of the second match of the season.

But don’t stress, Grandma. Right after the “I’m out” text, she sent me another one: “Never mind. He said if I do special stretches and go to the trainer, I can play.”

She may return to her beloved volleyball on Monday, but her injury, which affects her sciatic nerve—and you know the pain that comes with that—won’t be healed for at least two weeks. But she’s going to play through the pain and sinus infection because she loves the sport with a passion.

Then there’s her older brother, Brent, a senior. He decided last year to go out for football, changing his sport from baseball.

I had my reservations. I know these players take a pounding, and Brent suffered some serious injuries playing baseball, including at least one concussion and a compound fracture of his upper arm.

“I’m going to buy you a big roll of bubble wrap for your birthday,” I told him.

But Brent set his goal to make the team and began a self-imposed program of endurance and strength training. He put on weight and studied the game. And made the team.

He scored the first touchdown of the season for his team (and the first touchdown of his career) in the first game. And the team voted him, a first-year-player, as their captain. (Grandmas are allowed to brag.)

Imagine his frustration (and mine) when, after all that work and all he’d accomplished, after that first game, he ended up with shin splints. And you know how painful those can be. So down to the trainer he goes. But that hasn’t taken him from the game he’s come to love.

“The only way they’re taking me off the field,” he told me, “is on a stretcher.”

Yes, this tangled bundle of bandages and tape came off Brent’s leg after practice.

And so he endures ice baths and miles of ace bandages and tape.

I recognized a familiar disappointment that settled in my heart. My own kids were involved in sports and also suffered pains and sprains, which I felt kept them from performing their best.

But now I look at my grandchildren and their determination and grit, and I realize that no one who truly plays a sport escapes injury. If you give it your all, you’re going to get hurt. It’s just the nature of the game.

And the nature of life itself.

We’re all playing with pain, aren’t we? Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, whether it’s apparent or hidden. We’re the “walking wounded.”

I used to think it was better to back off when pain flared. It’s human to want to avoid pain.

But we can’t live our lives in bubble wrap. Pain, I’ve learned, can develop our character, strengthen us, and drive us to the One who has a plan and purpose for it. Now I’m seeing the importance of pushing through the pain and giving life my all.

Like my grandchildren, we have a choice. We can moan and groan, wallow in self-pity and bewail our luck.

Or we can man up and push on, refusing to be benched—until they take us off the field on a stretcher.

“I have come that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Are you living life to the full?

Help me to embrace all You send my way, O Lord, even pain, knowing You have a plan and purpose for all You allow in my life. Grant me sustaining grace and a willing spirit. Amen.

Read and meditate on Hebrews 12:1–13

MORE TEA: Some quotes on pain

I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.  ~ Elizabeth Elliot

God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29).  ~ Jerry Bridges

Read more

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.