Sunday, January 25, 2009

Coats and Jackets

Yesterday I had the beautiful opportunity to rest with good friends. We took a little car drive and rode out into the country, past the blinking lights and the strip malls that seem to be everywhere around us. There was good music in the car, and just the right amount of good conversation. As we drove, I thought about how rarely I take notice of the night sky, the way it blinks and shines with little lights, like a free art show every night.

I thought about how the biting of a sharp gust of wind reminds me that I am alive and that I can not rely on myself. It works itself to your skin, wriggling through your jackets and coats like a hunter stalking prey, and when you feel it in the deep of your bones you realize that even with all these layers on you are vulnerable still. You walk with brisk steps, intent on reaching a destination of warmth. And when you do, you exhale and the blood seems to rush all through your body like a dam being broken. It's a wonderful feeling, and it reminds me that I am alive, and that I am needy as I live out this journey of life.

We have to put on so many layers just to keep warm out in the cold, and it's no different with our hearts. To survive in a world where hurt and pain, distrust and indifference, and hate and grudges are so pervasive we quickly learn to fit our hearts with coats and jackets, insulating ourselves from getting too hurt. When someone says something out of anger to us for the first time, we feel the pain right in the center of our hearts, and we look for wars to keep that from happening again. When we reach out in love to someone and the love is not returned, we turn back toward ourselves like a turtle withdrawing into its shell, never wanting to feel that way again.

So we learn that in order to protect our hearts we must insulate them with coats and jackets. We quickly become very good at this, and learn to be wary of the outstretched hand of another person, of the kind words they offer to us, and of simple hospitality. We present ourselves in just the right light so that the people we meet can know what we want them to know about us. We may even let a few people peek at the heart that lies behind the coats, but it is never for long. And as we do this, we learn how to fit in, with whatever crowd we want to fit in with. We wear the clothes, say the right things, and laugh at the right times. But down deep the heart becomes restless under the weight of so many jackets and coats. It's getting stiflingly hot in there.

It can take a long time to realize this, and thus it takes a long time to replace the coats and blankets with the right kind of insulation. But when we meet the person of Jesus, we know that He sees right through those layers in our hearts. And beyond that, He tells us He wants to recreate us, to make us new in His image. We have to learn to take off these coats and jackets and let the love and mercy of Christ seep into every corner of our thirsty hearts. And there's a certain amount of trust that we must place in Jesus. We have to trust Him because it takes time for Him to fit us with new insulation. Not the old kind of coats and jackets we were used to, but a layer of peace, grace, and love. It is this kind of insulation that protects us from the searing arrows that come our way, but also allow us to open up and be transparent with other people, all at the same time.

It's amazing how intricately God wants to recreate us, and how much He will if we will simply submit ourselves to Him. It's just so hard for me and you to trust that God can do better than we can. When we do, though, we find that the journey is anything but safe, but it is the most amazing journey of new life and new creation.

No comments: