“Even now,” declares the Lord , “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
I’ll never forget that question my counselor asked me in one of our first face to face sessions. I sat on the couch buried beneath a pillow and she asked, why do you give your heart away so quickly?
It’s a question that’s ruminated through my mind many times since I sat in her office almost three years ago.
God’s children have been giving their hearts away to other things and people since humanity fell.
Our hearts are broken time and time again.
I gave my broken heart away to a pastor who told me he loved me, and I thought my dream for a father who would love me had finally come true.
Getting a hug from him was like taking a drug for me, a drug that made me feel complete.
But just like any drug, the positive effects did not last, the lows came flooding in, as well as a demand for another hit.
The confusing part is, I didn’t know it was an addiction, I believed that it was love.
I wasn’t purchasing crack on the street. I was sitting in my pastor’s office desperately looking for God.
How could it all turn out so wrong?
There was a darkness in my soul that I wanted to go away. A history of abuse that had been overwhelming and confusing me for most of my life. He was the only person I’d met who was willing to walk through the darkness with me. He was also the only one who didn’t seem afraid. I believed that he was like Jesus and not afraid to touch my sinful soul. I believed that his hug had made me whole.
I had no idea I had become a slave.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
It did not feel like slavery. It felt like what I was made for. I talked to him on the phone every day and looked for any opportunity to be with him.
And by the time what I knew was sinful entered into the picture, I was already hooked.
Even in our final conversation, my former pastor was still calling what we had love.
But it wasn’t love. It never had been love.
It (Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
But why did I give my heart away to something that wasn’t love?
Recently, I sat at the end of my son’s dock overlooking the peaceful waters and watching the swallows fly freely just above my head. I wanted to admire the beauty that surrounded me, wanted to experience the peaceful moment and allow my soul to rest.
But rest was difficult to get find. A pressure in my chest kept reminding me that there was so much in my life that wasn’t in control; so many unanswered questions about the future of my life. Would things ever get better? Or would trauma continue to be the story of my life?
My husband has been saying lately that he’s afraid to hope. So much bad has happened in our lives. So many things have not turned out as we’d planned. So many decisions that we need to make about the future of our lives and our children’s lives.
Our hearts are still broken and are desperately longing for relief and answers about what is to come.
It’s the same place I was in when I met my former pastor.
And it’s a terrifying place to be.
The truth is sometimes we choose control over love.
I could just as easily walk back into slavery to something else and experience temporary relief, however this time I couldn’t do it with ignorance as an excuse.
What I see now about the lies I believed before, I cannot unsee.
I know if I give my heart away to anything except God it will only bring more pain.
But still the struggle is real. Especially when the desire for God to do something to bring relief is only met with silence.
How many times in 40 years of wandering in the dessert did the Israelites cry out in frustration to God? How many times did they wish that they were back in Israel where at least the choices were made for them and they knew what to expect?
The Israelites lost sight of the freedom that God promised. They didn’t like having to choose to follow God when so much was uncertain. When so much was unseen. They were tired of their empty bellys and tired of things not being at all the way they’d imagined they would be.
And I get tired, too.
How much longer do I have to wander around in this desert and wait for God to move? How many times will I wonder if I wasn’t better off in Egypt? How many more times will I hope and only experience disappointment?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
My hope for relief didn’t come from where I thought it would. Relief finally came at the end of years of disappointment of hoping in something that could never bring hope.
The children of Israel wrestled with God for 40 years in the desert wanting hope on their terms; wanting control more than love.
Even after God had rescued them from slavery they still didn’t trust in His plan to bring them good.
Even after God rescued me, I still doubt, too.
When I am thrilled with the reality of who God is and what He has done, I am filled with feelings that are consonant with any intimate relationship. I feel close, connected, engaged, passionate, and alive. On the other hand, when my heart is oriented toward securing life (or a cab, or a waitress to bring my bill, or a break from struggling with the thorns and thistles in my garden) through my own power and wisdom, I am serving another master, not God.
Dan Allender, Bold Love
We are all called to live as sons not as slaves.
A son expects his father to bring him good.
A slave lives in fear of losing what good he has.
Many days I confess I live in fear of losing what good I have.
I still cling to control more than I do love.
Trauma dictates more of my life than hope does.
And yet He still loves me.
For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
And herein lies our hope.
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
And I pray for the grace today to choose love over control and to give my heart only away to Him.