Cut to the Heart
This year, our daughter’s 7th birthday fell on the First Sunday of Lent. In our family we celebrate birthdays as a feast day. The birthday person picks out her favorite foods for that day’s meals.
Gloria decided on Cracklin Oat Bran cereal for breakfast. Then, rice, french fries and red velvet cake balls for lunch. And for dinner we feasted on spaghetti and cookie dough ice cream. Friends came over to celebrate with us. As soon as she finished eating, Gloria and her friend Gemma slipped away together and played with her birthday toys for hours. Just the two of them.
It was a strange juxtaposition, celebrating the life of Gloria Grace while entering into a solemn season that calls for prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
And yet, I remember feeling a similar juxtaposition when I was child and celebrated my 7th birthday. I enjoyed cake and ice cream and presents, but what I remember most was a much anticipated phone call. A phone call my siblings and I only received on our seventh birthday.
At one point in the afternoon, the phone in our kitchen rang. Whoever was nearest, picked up the receiver. Immediately the phone was handed to me. I heard the soothing voice of my paternal grandfather. He was calling to wish me a happy birthday, yet his tone was serious.
“Seven is the age of reason,” he told me. “Do you know what that means?”
I listened intently as my grandfather went on to explain, “Now that you are seven years old, you know in your heart the difference between right and wrong.”
Time seemed to slow down as his words began to sink in. There are consequences to the choices I make. And I am responsible for them. My words can build up or tear down. So can my actions. His words helped me to look outside myself to begin to see the impact I have on those around me.
A few years later, I remember a special outing I had with my grandfather. He had an errand to run in the city. Before leaving for the day, he looked me in the eyes and asked, “Would you like to come with me?”
Most of the details of that day have faded, but I do recall sitting across the table from him as we ate lunch together at Red Lobster. I had my first taste of fried coconut shrimp that day. I felt cherished that he invited me to spend the day with him, just the two of us.
In the Gospel from the First Sunday of Lent, Jesus says:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
– Mark 1:15
The words “this is the time” resonated in me. Now is the time. Do not wait. This is the time for action. But, not empty tasks checked off a list. Action for a purpose of growing in relationship with the Lord.
In the Fall of 2019, I began having a standing date with the Lord: a weekly holy hour. One night a week I would go and sit before Jesus’ true presence in the Adoration Chapel. One hour of silent prayer. One hour alone with Jesus. As an introvert who is married to an extrovert and a mother to five children, it’s no wonder that time set apart was sacred.
After a month or two I noticed a spiral notebook left open near the chapel entrance. On the top of the page were the words: Answered Prayers. Below that ran a list with dates and notes jotted down of specific prayers that were offered to the Lord in that chapel that had been answered. Pretty soon, I too, was adding to that list.
How quickly I learned that time devoted to prayer is never wasted.
One year ago this month, the pandemic hit. My heart sank when I received a text message on my phone: “Adoration Chapel closed until further notice.”
When a missionary friend proposed Adoration in the Big Woods Chapel during Lent, my heart sang. I arranged a sitter for Daniel and signed up for a weekly slot. Thursday mornings Matt and I go together. Five-month-old Gwendolyn is content to sit in her carseat and shake a rattle while we pray. If she gets too noisy, we take turns holding her in our arms.
Often I read and contemplate the Daily Scripture Readings from the week.
On Ash Wednesday, we heard from the prophet Joel:
“Yet, even now, says the Lord,
Return to me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
Rend your hearts and not your garments.
Return to the Lord, your God,
For he is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
– Joel 2:12-13
I hear the Lord remind me that he created me for relationship; to be in relationship with Him and with others. A relationship doesn’t magically happen. A relationship requires time devoted to just being together. A time for speaking and listening. So, I open my journal. I fill the pages, pouring out my heart to the Lord.
Here’s my heart, Lord. Here’s my heart, Lord. Here’s my heart, Lord. Speak what is true.
Now it’s my turn to sit and listen, to receive without analyzing or doubting.
The Lord speaks tenderly to my heavy heart:
You belong to me.
Give me your burdens, yours sorrows, your fears.
I am here. Come and rest.
I make all things new.
I am yours. You are mine.
Be loved by me.
His words cut me to the heart. The love of God is a sturdy shelter. His love never fails. His love transforms. His love heals. He fills me with peace.
Take a moment now and listen to your heart.
Are you lonely or afraid?
Are you confused or frustrated?
Are you angry or sad?
Are you discouraged?
Give your heart to Jesus. He is waiting for you!
Comments are closed