Over the past week, I’ve had a few phone calls that really stood out from the crowd. Two in particular served to shed new light for me on what it means to live from the heart, and to do so honestly.
O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He swears to his own hurt and does not change.
Psalm 15:1-2, 4c NASB
I had a lovely chat with one woman who was telling me how happy she was that she had a day out of the house, and she likened it to a get-out-of-jail-free day. She then said that she had to go to God and apologize because that was a complaint about where He had her right now. She thanked Him for her life. Well, I found the whole thing refreshing and I thanked her for telling her heart’s truth to me.
She could have skipped the backhanded complaint part of the story and gone straight to the gratitude, as if nothing else ever happened. Why do we prefer to trade one shallow, simpering story of superficial goodness for another? That’s what usually happens, you know? Instead, I was encouraged to speak the truth of my heart, too. We connected, and a joyful exchange took place. She spoke the truth in her heart and encouraged me to do the same. It was fun!
Another call was from a young woman who was struggling to process a very recent, and very big wound at the hands of a friend. She was still trying to take it all in and find her footing in a new reality. And as she spoke, I was reminded of something John told me the other day about forgiveness. To paraphrase, he said that God Himself has to show us what we need to forgive, because we don’t always know just what was done that must be forgiven. I think that’s the work of forgiveness – being willing to see what was done, being patient to see ALL that was done, and then surrendering the right of vengeance to God and letting go of the hurt.
Isn’t that what it means to “swear to [my] own hurt?” One of the meanings of the word swear is “to bring into a specified state by swearing.” To acknowledge the hurt makes it very real, and we don’t really like that because it’s messy. When someone hurts me, it is NOT clean—at first. There’s a good bit of screaming, crying, shaking of fists, etc. It’s pretty humiliating even before I tell God how much I want to hit them with my car or throw a pepper-laced drink in their face. It’s very raw, and then comes the choice. Nurse my vengeance, or give it to God? Pet my bitterness, or stay with God? Will I change course, or stay on the narrow way?
Refusing to see the hurt, let alone feel it, is bypassing the truth of the heart and scorning the work of forgiveness. Forgiveness is meaningless if we have not sworn to our hurt, because there’s nothing to let go of without the work of the heart. And if I haven’t done the work of forgiving the hurts God allowed in my life, then I am not forgiven. That’s an awfully high price to pay.
It’s not easy to live honestly, from the heart. As humans, we don’t make it easy for each other, and it can be even worse in the church. When we lie to each other about the reality of sanctification, we either encourage more lies, or we make honest people feel like dirty, wretched gits.
“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” The Cross is death, always death. And death hurts! It can be messy and difficult, even under the best of circumstances, so it’s a gift to be reminded that we’re not alone in this struggle. Let’s not forget the reward, either. Psalm 15 ends with a promise: He who does these things will never be shaken.