It was all the message said this afternoon as I had just opened my Bible to the section read in a sermon last weekend.
My usual response to the “how are you” question from anyone is, “Good, You?”
But with this friend the Spirit always seems to say “Truth.”
I read the words with eyes welling up and fingers searching for the response because the truth is? I don’t know how I am.
And that’s the truth. Prayer, opening my Bible, journaling, writing, it’s all been more than my brain or my heart care to enter into. The depth of darkness in this world right now, the reruns of housework and home routines, the training of little ones…
Then last weekend, in a way only God can do it, a pastor at a church I was visiting spoke right to my heart. I didn’t feel connected to what she was saying from the start, but she said one phrase,
“We need to refresh ourselves daily in the gospel of grace.”
Something in me said, “Write this down.” So I did.
She read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 and what I’m meditating on today, thanks to the earlier message from my friend, is verses 11-13. Paul says,
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak to you as children) widen your hearts also.”
You are restricted in your own affections.
Why yes, Paul, I am. And it keeps me from being refreshed daily by the gospel of grace.
For me, relationships are hard. Really hard. Depth is hard. Taking time to not only show my children what’s wrong, but to teach them what is right, is hard. Turning spilled stickiness and whiny tirades into teachable moments of patience and grace is hard. So I set my affections elsewhere…to food, to TV, to Facebook, to anything void of deep thought or emotion or introspection. Because those? Are hard.
And so becomes my heart.
And when the heart becomes hard what other way is there but to break it and allow God to make those repairs from the inside out? To a place where my heart also widens?
I am not restricted by this world:
where I live
what I live in
how my children behave
the evil that claims a temporary win
the job I have
the job I don’t have
relationships changed or ended
piles of dishes and laundry and library books
I am restricted by my own affections. My heart has been narrow leaving little room for God to move. Because wherever my affections are, they haven’t been on him.
But the effect on Paul along with his friends Timothy and Silvanus with hearts wide open? Paul says,
“…we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
~ 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
Paul poured his heart into people, because his heart was wide open, filled with the Holy Spirit and with passion for them to know and follow Jesus. He entered into all those hard places. He drank deep from the well of life-giving water and lived his life to share it with others. He didn’t hold back because of potential pain, he didn’t avoid because of fear, he didn’t make excuses for the sake of his own convenience. And he counted it joy! Though he had been beaten, imprisoned, hungry, dishonored, poor…he was “always rejoicing” knowing that his poverty was making others rich, and truly? He possessed everything.
He possessed the only thing that mattered…a heart wide open, where, through Paul’s relationship with and commitment to Jesus, God was able to move and work and change lives for eternity.
Newsflash: I’m not Paul. His gifts are not necessarily my gifts and God has made it so.
What I am is a follower of Jesus who, at this time, happens to be a wife, a mom of two little girls, and a woman with some God-sized…and I believe God-given…dreams.
Those dreams will never be realized if my affections are set inward fearing depth in relationship and risk for the cause of Christ.
But if I widen my heart, open to the miraculous work of Jesus, let the Spirit breeze through as He will, and let people in to see God’s work in me and to walk through it alongside me, just like Paul I will see lives changed for eternity. So will you.
Lord Jesus, satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Let us widen our hearts to you and to each other, for our good and the good of those you continue to call to yourself, and for your glory. We love you. Amen.
And when we choose not to widen our hearts, we miss out on encouragement and prayer like this, from my friend:
Where have you been setting your affections lately? In what areas can we pray for you to widen your heart? You can leave a comment here today…
I am Emily. Follower of Jesus, wife to a hard-working man, mama to two tiara-wearing and dirt-covered princesses, lover of words, seeker of a heart completely satisfied by the love of my Savior.You can also contact me at satisfiedbylove.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.