“But, Mommy, I really don’t have a hard heart! I helped today! I read to my brother and did my chores…..”
I had the audacity to pray for vision recently. Vision into my own sin and how that affects my home and family. And, not surprisingly, that prayer has been answered—often to a depth I would rather avoid.
The tongue really is a fire! (Lord, spare my children from its flame.) And grumbling was not left in the wilderness when the Israelites entered the promised land. It is alive and well in my spirit. In fact, we may as well go back to Genesis—because the rift that was born in chapter 3 does not cease to divide man and woman. My desire is too often for my husband even as sin’s desire was for Cain.
The surprise has not, however, come in the uncovering of my sin—but in my response. I am angry. And, unfortunately, I am not primarily angry for the sake of the sin itself or its effects on those around me. I am angry because I want so desperately to be right. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about? Being right? Doing right? Marrying right? Dressing right? Well, that is certainly how I act much of the time. But, thankfully—beautifully—that is not the gospel. The gospel is about delighting in “being wrong.” Or, more accurately, delighting in the revelation of wrong.
Here’s the thing. We can tell a humble heart from a proud heart, not by how perfectly one obeys, but by how one responds to correction. A proud heart resists correction and is more concerned with denial of any offense than in learning to live and love well. A humble heart rejoices in Godly correction. Because the receiving of the “wrong” necessarily implies an understanding of the “right” and the grace given so we may walk in freedom.
Is this not the gospel? That we are wrong? Deeply, grievously wrong? And that, in the midst of that wrong, He loves and brings life? Life to such height as the wrong is deep? And is this not the stumbling block of the Gospel? That we are to call that depth blessed because of the height of the redemption?
What kindness He has shown in revealing our sin. And so gentle! For He has already answered the despair. He has not opened my eyes to my sin in order to bring shame, but to bring redemption! And, not only that, but He is the One who works the change in me (oftentimes despite me I am sure).
So I can say to my child:
“I don’t mean that you have done bad things all day. You have actually had a very good day—and you have been helpful in caring for your brother and kind to your sister. You focused so well in doing your schoolwork and even cleaned up without my asking! There have only been a few times you have even needed correction and I am thankful for your efforts in obedience. But I will tell you what I have been learning: Each time you have required correction, you have denied the wrongdoing and, in anger, have fought discipline. That shows me you have a hard heart. I have had a hard heart too. Let’s pray together and ask God to soften our hearts and be free!”
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131: 1-2