The heart - new or old or both?

Wednesday 30 April 2008

I've started reading more of the Bible again. Last night climbing into bed, had a craving. I must say, that hasn't happened much in the past few months. Some might say, reading the post below this one, that this is very much self-evident :)

I still struggle, I must admit, with a certain rigidity when I pick up the Bible, a feeling that sometimes I can't see what it's really saying because it's bound up in past legalisms and human readings instead of seeing the greater spiritual underlying it.

I have just finished reading an article about being holy, and I must say it kind of sprung up a few things in me which I am interested in studying (a philosophical and contemplative turn of mind doesn't leave a lot of hiding places for errant thoughts, I'm afraid - although I'm sure there are still thousands of them that I don't see - but as soon as they spring up my rational detached part of my mind starts pulling them apart, showing them to God :) It's actually a much safer experience than you could imagine. I don't often feel like there is more that needs to be done at those times except look at them, show them to God. These days I am happy to feel a security in God, in his love, that I know he is my Father/Mother God. But a tame lion he is not, and neither do I want him to be.

However, it is easy to get complacent in my safety with God. If I was going to presume upon God, I would rather it be upon his kindness and fatherliness, like a young child with a great king, rather than cowering away - I can't do that anymore, he has brought me too far. And yet, there is a certain dangerous area that can be headed into, where taking a mile from an inch suddenly finds us in an attitude that says anything goes. Again, if I was going to err on the side of anything, it would actually be licentiousness, these days, rather than legalism. The latter is far more dangerous to me than the former. But I don't want to head into licentiousness. I don't want to miss hearing the voice of God because I discard the things I don't like or understand about him because they don't fit my paradigm.

I never want God to be anything other than Other. But I can feel the seeds in me which could go that way. I am nowhere near it, despite chakra alignments and foul-mouthedness, but still. I guess being aware of the propensity is half the battle. And praying stupid prayers like, "God, I would really like to have some sort of revelation about your holiness" keeps me stumbling towards him. I haven't had any sort of revelation, but I kind of half want to :)

This is a verse that I wonder about, from Jeremiah 17:9-10. My esteem for the Bible is undiminished. There is a magic and wonder in that book that defies description. There is so much in there that steers me back when I threaten to fall off the sides. Yet, these days, I can't help but be of the view that the Old Testament must be read according to the times it was written. I don't think they had all of the answers then. I think they got things wrong. I don't think casting babies against rocks is in God's great plan, but perhaps I am wrong.

So this verse. What think ye?

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."

Of course, Josef Fritzl, the man who is horrifying in the news as we hear about how he kept his own daughter in a cellar for 24 years and forced her to bear 7 children to him, proves that the heart is indeed deceitful. Are we all capable of something like that? We like to write someone like him off as an anomaly, a Hitlerish blip on the humanity scale. I tend towards the idea that we are all capable of amazing atrocities. We don't realise how mch Papa holds us up in his invisibility, speaking not a word.

That is, however, not all of the answer. What about God writing his law on our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh instead of stone? Can two hearts live within the one person, or do you think this is something new that happens when one comes to believe in God?


  1. I think if god knows anything, it is the hearts of people.

    Something I jotted down from the Ellul article and has popped up now and then is this,

    "when we open the bible we do not find a philosophy, a political statement, a metaphysic or even a religion. We find instead the promise of dialogue, a personal word addressed to me, asking me what I am doing, hoping, fearing - and especially what I am."

    Personally I see nothing but the Grace of Christ in the OT. Abbas unquenchable love for his people that keeps asking them who they are and what they are doing. Interestingly, atrocities not unlike that of things we see in the news were occuring among Gods people in Jeremiahs time... It might just have something to say to us today, if as you say, we read it it its proper context.

  2. I like what Urbanmonk said. :)

    I don't think we like it, as "sinners", when God comes knocking. I think part of the deceit of our heart is that we know we are guilty of something, but think we can do voodooey things to make amends.

    This desire to do something to earn the favor of God, or the gods, is what seems to have led to the sickness of our hearts. I think the inability to accept and extend grace is what makes us perverse.

    What I experience is that God writes his law and I come along and erase part of it...He keeps at it until I understand. I seem to learn best the hard way.:)

    One thing about this law that God writes on our hearts, is that the context of the word fits better with the scientific or mathematical meaning of the word law. That sort of law being what we can observe that doesn't change, like gravity. I think the law God is writings in our hearts has nothing to do with following any rules, but instead it is paying attention to the whispering of God in our hearts. Romans 2:14&15 are so meaningful here!:

    "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them."

    Then I wonder what would have been different if the first set of laws had not been broken...I wonder if there was more about grace, but the people just couldn't handle it yet??? Who knows!?

  3. I think there are two sides to that coin, sue. On the one side, we have to give up that ego-self, that facade that we are perfect or even perfectable so that we can honestly look God in the face and be real. On the other side, God accepts us, faults and all, as dearly beloved ones and sees only the good because it alone shares the divine existence.

  4. Monk - good stuff. Your comment reminded me of God in the garden calling, Where are you? when of course he knew where they were. I think reading it in its proper context means knowing that God was revealing himself in a limited sort of fashion at that time because it was all they could hear and see. Needed a paradigm crusher to see further. But still, some of those passages when I read them ... well, I guess it says more about me than about him if I am reading them with pockets of fear and unbelief still hovering, doesn't it?

    Jennifer - I wonder if there is more about grace for us, too, but we just can't handle it yet?? I certainly don't think we have even half the revelation of what is going on with God and who s/he is. But then I wonder - what if I go too far with the Papa deal - there is a place for reverence and awe. I am getting accomlished with climbing in his lap, but haven't had much experience of falling down in awe before his majesty. But then, how do you do the first if you are too overwhelmed by the second?

    Barbara - You're so Julian in your views :) It's delightful. I am so drawn to the mystical and contemplative, in the way you have described here, and the way that heart rush takes you off, that sometimes, like when I read that article abut holiness, I wonder if I am presuming too far. And yet what I sense from him, and from looking beyond the text of the Bible to the reality behind it, is that while he is not a tame lion, he is a safe lion. Still, I would like to see a bit of that wildness of God just so I don't get overfamiliar.

  5. I think Gods "revelation" seems to come not exclusively of course, but alot through prophetic people and prophetic communities through out history. They both judge individual and collective hearts and call them into the comfort of a restored and renewed intimacy with their God. e judgment and comfort are not opposed to each other, but in fact both part of the nature of a loving God.

    "when our minds and imaginations are crippled with lies about love, we have a hard time understanding this fundamental ingredient in daily living, "love" either as noun or verb."

    Perhaps it is because God knows that the human heart is above all decietful that he is so faithful to his creation and continually uses people and peoples through out history to correct our always skewed vision of love. Lets face it, with out that continued correction, and reorienting towards real love, ( which includes judgment) where would we lead ourselves?

  6. Where would we lead ourselves? Hmmm, that's an interesting one I shall ponder today.

  7. sue, don't worry so much. When you need a shaking up, you will get it. I know that from experience. Let God love you the way God wants to love you now. Its modality will change as you change. Be confident that the Spirit knows what you need. Stop telling God to get fearsome. God wants to be loved, not feared. Awe comes with closeness and meeting the ineffability.
    And thank you for saying I sound Julian-esque. I wasn't trying to do so, but she's a very great influence on me.

  8. Hey Barb. I'm not worrying. I think I might be giving the impression that this is all stressing me out. It's more an intellectual questioning for me than a serious questioning of my faith or God or anything.

  9. Sue,
    But then I wonder - what if I go too far with the Papa deal - there is a place for reverence and awe. I am getting accomlished with climbing in his lap, but haven't had much experience of falling down in awe before his majesty. But then, how do you do the first if you are too overwhelmed by the second?

    Yah...I know what you mean. In the past few years I've moved from the Father/child relationship to a friend to friend relationship, but in that I've seen that it is just a phase of experiencing God in a different way. He is still my father, king, mother, husband...he fills every need and I think in these past few years I've just needed to learn about His friendship.
    In the background of that friendship is this awareness that He is still hugely majestic, holy, righteous, pure light with no shadows and more powerful than I can imagine, yet all in a humble and gentle way.

    I remember once in a discussion group a lady who was trying to figure out the who of God and she asked how He could be a husband and a brother and a this and a was at that moment that I knew He just is what we need at the time, but He remains who He is in His entirety; His wild, holy safety.

    I really like what Barbara said too. I think all of this awareness can go on in the background of our heart and mind without needing to respond to every aspect of God at all times. But I hear your concern that you don't want to only have a tunnel perspective of God.

    It seems like there's this fine line between what we convince ourselves is true about God and who He actually is in relationship. I need to step back every so often and ask myself if I am trying to put God back in a box of a different shape or if I'm seeking Him with open hands, ready to be surprised by who He is and what He does.

    You are such a dear person, I just love reading all you write.

  10. Thanks, guys.

    I guess I am feeling a bit restless in God lately. I would like a few Julianesque visions :) His presence is further away in this season of my life, and while I know he is still there and I can cope with that, I do miss it. I guess I am just hungry for more of God, is what it is :) I'm sure s/he will honour the request :)


Newer Older