She stood close to me and slid the knife quietly between my ribs because she knows the chinks in my armour and I had to forgive all over again. My heart felt dirty just when I thought I’d cleaned it out good and proper.
That incident today (true story) jolted my resolve to make heart-scrubbing a habitual part of my day. Like teeth-brushing. Like I’ll feel gross all day if I haven’t done it. Thing is, I’ve cleaned out the stuff that festered in the past, but that doesn’t make me immune to insidious grime that gathers daily.
I recently recommended Andy Stanley’s book Enemies of the Heart. It’s a pretty life-changing read if you buy into the idea of growing younger on the inside. So I thought I’d recommend it again, because I keep bumping into people and after half a conversation I want to say, ‘You should really read this book.’ And I keep bumping into myself and saying, ‘Girl, haven’t you read this book?’
If you haven’t looked hard at your heart for quite some time (or ever), here’s my Grow Young Inside challenge to you: Before Christmas, MAKE SOME LISTS. Real, pen-and-paper lists. Don’t put it off. If you feel moved to do this start now if possible – before you sleep tonight. I did it over a couple weeks. So you could have it done by Christmas, no problem, and you could celebrate the Saviour feeling tons lighter than you feel now. (Please note: these ideas aren’t mine; they’re Andy Stanley’s. I’m just sharing how I put them into practice, and how you can, too.)
The first list is the hardest. Make an I-owe-you list. A list of people you’ve wronged. People you think of with a twinge of guilt. Or a truckload of guilt. I prayed that God would bring people to mind and he did. An old varsity friend. An ex-boyfriend. That sort of thing. Write down the names. Then make the call, send the email, whatever works for you, but get in touch. Because it’s easy to confess privately to God. But you’ve got to be brave to own the hurt you’ve caused someone else. Ask their forgiveness. Don’t make excuses. Don’t mention the thing(s) they might have done to you. Just take full responsibility for your slice of the relational pie chart. And remember you are not responsible for their response.
For me it was super awkward to make contact – in some cases after years – and then to ask forgiveness. But I was amazed at the grace that came my way. I was also amazed at how gathering the guts to make myself vulnerable and risk all sorts of potential reactions actually opened up, for me and for them, pockets of freedom and understanding and reconnection and affirmation and life.
Then make a you-owe-me list. Who are you angry with? Who has taken something from you that they had no right to take? Your lane in the traffic? Your innocence? Write down the names, if you know them. From the neighbour playing death metal at midnight to the Grade 2 teacher who humiliated you. Whoever. Be honest with yourself. What angry memoir are you writing in your head? This time, do not make the call or send the email. The people who have hurt you don’t ever have to know. This is for you to take to God. Wrestle and yell and tell him all about it and remember how much you have been forgiven and pray pray pray. Until you can forgive. Breathe. Say with lightness, ‘I’ve cancelled the debt. They don’t owe me anything.’
List number 3 is the I-owe-me list. Where is greed clogging your arteries? Write it down. Do you actually doubt that God will provide for you? When you have more money than month (as opposed to more month than money) do you hoard fearfully? Spend hedonistically? Or do you say, ‘God, what do you want me to do with your extra?’ Do you give before you save before you live?
Lastly, make your God-owes-me list. The list of people that God seems to love more than he loves you. He has set them up for success of some sort – blessed them. He hasn’t done the same for you. And you’re jealous. Maybe it’s your skinny friend who is gorgeous in her jeans. Or the guy who’s taking his kids skiing for Christmas while you braai in the driveway. Maybe there are whole groups in society that you resent. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. Musos. Athletes.
There’s one cure and that’s to celebrate those people. Thank God for what he’s doing for them or in them. Fling your joy, not your spite. (God doesn’t love them more. And would you really want anything other than his best for you?) Just don’t celebrate like this: ‘Oh I hate you. You look so freakin’ good in those jeans. It’s so unfair.’ But more like this – with sincerity and a smile: ‘Hey, you look great.’ You’re not being fake (she really does look good). You’re doing the right thing. The right feelings will follow.
Sure as Christmas is coming, you won’t regret starting a clean-heart habit. Because once you’ve operated the industrial-strength degreasing equipment it’ll be easier to wipe crumbs off the counter every day.
Do you dare?
‘Clean Heart’ pic: diggingtheword.blogspot.com