I asked for it. I wrestled. The wish was granted under the knife.
“Teach me to love Lord, as You love. Let me look upon those around me with the same affections You have for them, not with my own. Let my eyes be Your eyes. My heart Your heart. Give me a love unexplained for the ones about me. A love not based on what mood I’m in or conditioned on what I’ve received from them. No God, please teach me to love as You love.”
The wrestling match with God has been ongoing, life-long really. I knew in the end I would be pinned, but still my stubborn heart wanted to learn the hard way I guess. The answers were right before me, what I needed to do to love, but I guess I didn’t want it quite bad enough just yet. I argued, put my foot down, dug my heels in, and yet begged God to show me how to love. The desire to love and be loved had been there long before the knife was applied, but the willingness to suffer the agony had not been. I’d rather it been a magic wand waved over my heart and head than the gut wrenching pain I experienced. But I asked for it. And so, the knife came.
Before the knife, He began with a chisel and my will. The part of me that wanted to change but not suffer. With the chisel He chipped away at it until I realized I will never love like Him, unless I suffer. Jesus loved us completely in His suffering. One chip at a time my will was finally shattered and that is where I found obedience. I finally saw that if I am to gain life, I must lose my life (Matthew 10:39) and so like a sheep to the slaughter, surgery began.
Unlike most surgeries, there was no anesthetic. Already crushed from a broken will, I laid there, waiting, shaking, trying my best to hold still. I closed my eyes as He took the knife slowly making the incision to open my heart. Here the great Physician and Surgeon found many stones, more like boulders really, that nearly towered as a wall. Slowly, carefully, He removed them one at a time. The stone of pride was removed first. It was the largest. Then, the stones of ingratitude, not as big pride, but there were many of them scattered about my heart holding this wall together. And finally He took out the stone of anger. The heaviest in my heart. With each cut of the scalpel He showed me the stones as he put them aside the operating table. While I had been longing to love and be loved, He gently whispered, “it is impossible with these stones in the way.” My pride had been telling me for years that I deserved to be loved a certain way by those around me. “They must hear me, and know who I am!” I’ve been screaming it all my life long. “They must see I’m worth loving.” When I heard it that way, from this very vulnerable place of open-heart surgery, it sounded horrific. “Thank you for taking that stone God.” I whispered, looking up into His warm eyes. Next, He showed me that my ingratitude had been blinding me from the generous and gracious acts of love that HAD been taking place around me, but I was too hurt to see them. Lastly, He showed me how my anger had taken over my heart and this stone was the toughest to cut out. As I lay under the knife I had the audacity to murmur to the Surgeon, “Please don’t take my anger, I will have nothing left. I’ll have nothing to hold against anyone.” But He wouldn’t stop now- He couldn’t or I would bleed to death. I was exactly where He needed me in order to grant my wish to love; Defenseless, broken, bleeding and hurting. My life was now completely in His hands.
Next, He went to work on my eyes. Meticulously, Jesus cut right to the center of my issue. The obstruction needing removed for proper vision was quite large. Two very big bark-like objects had lodged their way into both of my eyes. They are known as a logs, or a planks. Nevertheless, with great pain He removed them by way of reminding me where I have been. Reminding me of the sin He has saved me from, the judgement He did NOT sentence me with. He moved the knife around with great precision to remove the logs, and inserted new lenses in each eye. Ones that see the people around me with compassion and mercy, instead of judgement and anger. He gently reminded me of the compassion and love He bestowed on the adulterous woman in John 8. When her accusers wanted her stoned to death, and rightfully so according to the law. But the great Physician Jesus wanted her saved, free from her sin. In that moment she was never the same. Her encounter with mercy changed her life forever. Her accusers left her to stand alone with Him, and she was made new. As it would be with me when He finished. He showed me the same mercy and revealed my judgmental attitude all at once.
Lastly, the Surgeon corrected an issue with my lips and tongue. Something that has been tripping me up since I could talk I’m sure. I spoke of the stones of ingratitude and anger. Well you see the problem with them showed up in my mouth as well. Because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34) So many of the words that escaped my lips were that of complaining, and irritation. What He’s done here is not a one time deal I know, but it’s a start. The incisions were deep, and the stitches many. The recovery, a lifetime.
The surgery lasted many long hours, but finally His work was completed. The incisions were sown up and I was left to rest and ponder. I thought about the years of pain in my heart, the tears I had cried up to the point of going under the knife. I thought about how in many ways I had every right to be hurt, and this compassionate Surgeon showed me that He was with me all along, through every tear, heartache and hurt. He reminded me of all the times He had been loving me, but I was too blind to see Him there. I had been looking at all the wrong people for a love only He could give.
As I rested I considered how my longing to be loved a certain way, treated a particular way, and to have warm feelings and emotions all the time was essentially my way of wanting to be worshiped, instead of me worshiping Him. He deserves all. All honor. All glory. All praise. Anything I could possible give is considered but dung, and yet He wants my love, worship and devotion. How could I have been so foolish to think I’m worthy of any praise or adoration, and to then demand it? Yet even in this He, the steady-handed Surgeon of my heart, showed me the truth with great love and compassion, often wiping my tears and my brow.
Now, days later, I’m up and about but moving slowly. Careful about every turn and step. My heart is still very tender. The wounds are deep and the scars I pray will be ever reminding me of the stone wall that used to be. He left a memorial on my heart. When He took the stone of pride, He left humility. I would not even breathe were it not for Him. He also left thankfulness in the places where the stones of ingratitude used to be. And He left joy for the stone of anger. The heart transplant is working…, but only because the Surgeon put it there. The humility, gratitude and joy could not, no matter how hard I tried, be produced on their own or by my effort. Now as I slowly move about, I am aware of what He deserves. At every moment I would normally have been ungrateful He is teaching my new heart what I can be grateful for instead. And this joy he replaced my anger with, Wow! It’s tremendous! My heart has never ever known such joy. And it’s not the fake kind, like I used to have when my situation would change for the better. No, He put the real thing in my heart. Nothing about my life situation has changed, but nothing about it can take this joy away!
Since the surgery my eyes have come into focus. They are opened to a whole new world around me. I’m seeing what I’d never seen before- people! I see people, and I don’t see the specks in their eyes! People that I thought I had loved, I found that I hadn’t been loving them at all. Now I see them as He sees them. I’m seeing loved ones and strangers alike through these new lenses He put in. Suddenly people have become very precious and it’s not because I think so, but because He made them so. The eyes are the windows to the mind. And so with the change of sight came the change of mind. New sight, new frame of reference, new thinking.
With the change of mind through refocused eyes, and the new heart pumping with His love, I’d say I’m recovering well. But the issue of the lips and tongue I’ve been gingerly using at best. It’s been written that the tongue is the hardest muscle of the body to train. (James 3:8) Because its so easily connected to the heart and mind, I’ve wanted to try it out slowly. I’ve bitten it many times already and that’s with speaking very little! It is so quick to want to speak the first thing the mind thinks. My mind is thinking much more clearly, positively, still thoughts want to become words that should never come into existence.
Needless to say I will be attending physical therapy for the rest of my life. Every part of me Jesus has touched will not be His last touch. And undoubtedly His scalpel will touch other places as well, until the day I die. This surgery has been the most painful of all my encounters with Him, but it has also been the most fruit-bearing in such a short amount of time. (A soft answer really DOES turn away wrath! Proverbs 15:1) Daily He will exercise these new muscles and parts. He will stretch them and move them beyond measures I would ever think possible. That is however, what is necessary to love. To move beyond myself, beyond my longings, beyond my wants and wishes. Love is to die to self. Love is suffering for the cause of Christ. Love is putting the other person first. Love is outside the comfort zone. Love is obedience.
Jesus said take up your cross and follow me. Did He not lead us in this charge of obedience? Did He not take up His cross and follow His Father? Yes, He did. He was obedient unto death, and for what? For love. For you and me. And praise the God of all Glory that His death was not the end. And so shall my daily dying to self not be my end either. There is so much more to live for than the here and now. And it’s not just a place in heaven, away from hell. No! It’s a place where forever I will sing the praises of the One and ONLY ONE who deserves all praise. It is where I will meet face to face the One whose love for me is beyond my wildest dreams. It is where a fountain of continuous hallelujahs will flow from my lips forever.
I’ve heard it all my life. I’ve believed it to some degree. But here and now I live for it. I will live for and die for love, because I asked for it, and I received it under the knife.