A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.(Ezekiel 36:26)
I wish I could say my heart of stone came solely as a result of what happened to me. Certainly much has happened to me. The constant onslaught of death and abandonment and loss and assault and rape and neglect and isolation and illness were crushing. But I have a fighter’s spirit. I fought back with every talent God gave me. And I fought so well I began to delight in fighting not only to protect myself but sometimes to get back at those who hurt me. I’m not one who seeks simply to take the stick from an attacker. I want to ensure that the attacker will never harm anyone ever again. God has often held me back. Had He not, I would have produced much mayhem.
The vicious onslaught also left me fearing people. There were times when I lied or simply ended contact because I couldn’t be what I thought others expected me to be: because I didn’t have enough money to do all the things someone expected or couldn’t change my faith to please another person or couldn’t continue to expose myself to actions that scandalized me and sent me spinning into flashbacks and phantasms from my past, a past almost none of my friends knew about because I didn’t trust them. Being unable to trust coats the heart with layers of stone.
My pride added additional layers of rock. I knew what I needed and how I needed it. I even set the delivery schedule. Usually, the due date was right now. A dear friend used to tell the attorneys with whom he worked, “You can have it right or you can have it now but you can’t have it right now.” I demanded I be healed right and right now. After all, God can do anything. But He didn’t follow my scripts or my instructions. It baffled me.
Fortunately when I was lost God found me and has remained with me. So when I was old enough to hand Him my scripts I was also experienced enough to know that even though God wasn’t following my prescribed plan, I needed to stay with Him. Where else would I go? Chaos is the alternative to God. I knew chaos better than many. I’d lived in the midst of it for eleven years and could not go back. So I continued on but my heart of stone was a heavy ache within my chest.
It felt anger, desire, rage, pride, need, attraction, hunger, pain, and so much more. The dark feelings rumbled around, became fodder for ruminations that piled on more stone. Sometimes happiness touched the edges of my heart but it couldn’t nestle in and make a home. I loved with everything I had but love was always the gift of the moment. It wasn’t the constant I needed because no one really loved me. Most never tried. Those who did never knew me; I could not share my secrets with them. How can there be love without knowledge?
And all the while, God carried me as I kept revising those scripts and waving them before His face. Eventually, He pried the pages from my hands. Ill, frightened, alone, I moved in with a “friend” who told me that if I was really sick I must go because she wouldn’t care for me. Her words triggered my stubbornness and I pushed myself through demanding work while doctors unraveled the illness I suffered. At the same time, I had returned to the Catholic Church and found it different than when I left. People invited me into their lives, invited themselves into mine. Community surrounded me and gently but persistently pulled me in.
One day I awoke in hospital after undergoing major surgery. The smiling face of the woman who had voluntold* my home for a New Year’s Eve party three months before greeted me. Over the next few days, people I barely knew visited. Usually there was no one. And through more treatments and surgeries they continued to come. When I needed to be collected from hospital after an emergency, I was afraid they wouldn’t release me because I had no escort. The woman who voluntold my apartment had told me to call if I needed her. I risked rejection and called. Her bright voice assured me she would be there.
I wanted God to say the black and do the red. He was to just follow my instructions and all would be well. How God must have laughed at me. He knew I could have healing right or I could have it now but I couldn’t have it right now. And I couldn’t have it my way not because God sought to thwart me but because my way wouldn’t work. I needed the gentle sledge hammer of Christian community. It’s been at work on my heart of stone nearly as long as the entire time I spent with the minister and his family. My heart isn’t fully flesh yet and I don’t know when it will be. I do know I can feel it beating at this very moment. Happiness now has an abode in my heart. Others know and love me. I am the luckiest girl in the world because fortunately when I was lost God found me. He never wants me or anyone else to have a heart of stone. His heart was pierced and an ocean of mercy poured out so that our hearts might be made flesh.
* Voluntold is an accurate contraction of volunteer + told