“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.”
Joel 2:13 (NIV)
I received the call Sunday afternoon; everyone had evacuated to a hospital shelter. A forest fire near a small-town nursing home threatened the residents—including my elderly father suffering from advanced dementia.
When I arrived at the shelter, I began to inquire, “Excuse me,” I asked. “Does anyone know what’s going on?”
In passing, someone answered, “We’re moving everyone to different nursing homes.”
“Where’s my father staying?” I asked.
“We don’t know,” another staff member replied.
His nurse approached me. Her stoic demeanor made this tense emergency worse. Throughout our conversation, my anxiety twisted her words into a methodical discourse of patronizing dribble. I became curt and demanding.
Has that ever happened to you? Someone with authority gets your hackles up? No matter what they say, you feel threatened.
The next morning, I tried to pray, but I felt nothing. I couldn’t stop replaying the squabble with “Nurse Ratched.” Okay, I admit, my father’s nurse wasn’t like the nurse in the 1975 film, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” How did this toxic sludge get into my head?
Tension Exposed a Dark Secret
I knew God wanted to expose the sludge in the secret chambers of my heart. My personal time of reflection was guided like a craftsman guides an apprentice. Lord, give me clarity. The dark secrets of the heart aren’t worth keeping.
God revealed the source of my distress. I was resisting authority—ugly pride. Tears streamed down my face until I became spiritually exhausted with nothing left but a residue of dry, salty tears on my cheeks. Why do I keep falling into the same cycle, Lord?
Call it inspiration, revelation or a moment of clarity; I didn’t want to see the ugliness of my sin. I wanted to keep it hidden. I wanted to keep it a secret. That was my dilemma.
Secrets of the heart can imprison the soul, but truth unlocks the strongest door. God was the ultimate authority over everything and everyone—including my dad.
Fear, control, and anger are often symptoms of unrelenting pride that obstructs a truthful view of God. As a result, we experience spiritual dementia that affects our thoughts and memory of God’s gracious love.
Rend Your Heart
God reminded me of Joel 2:13. Amid a prophetic message, there was an admonition, “Rend your heart and not your garments.”
To “rend” your garments in ancient days, was to express grief or a righteous sorrow. But God doesn’t want outward expression without inward change. To rend our hearts means we tear our sinfulness into tiny pieces leaving it unusable. If anything deserves a spiritual shredder, it’s sin—that means finishing the work with repentance.
Later that morning, my dad’s nurse called with an update. God offered me the opportunity to tear up my wrongdoing: I asked her to forgive me.
Sometimes, I’m more concerned about building my service for God, rather than tearing down spiritual obstacles. But the Holy Spirit helps me get out of my way, so He can rebuild my spirit in His abounding love.
Do negative emotions cause you to fall into the same toxic patterns? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any secret places. He will rebuild your spirit with compassion and grace.
Have a blessed weekend.