I have been working my way through a published study, “Faithful, Abundant, True”. It was the final day’s study from Priscilla Shirer that initiated this most recent journey of discovery with God. That quiet-time back in December led me to write the blog “The fear of being seen”. I then worked through clarifying the fear within me (blog: Falling onto God) and next studied the Scriptures I already knew that dealt with people who listen, and those who don’t (blog: In the know). So puzzle piece #1 is the fear that I will be unable to hear God’s truth in some area of my being, that I’ll be a captive and not know it. Then puzzle piece #2 is that Jesus says our ability to hear truth is directly related to the condition of our heart (see Mark 4).
While considering the importance of the condition of my heart, I felt the inclination to find the passages in Ezekiel where God talks about giving us a new heart. I read the passages in my NIV Bible but then turned in my new NLT Bible so that I could mark the passages. I wasn’t expecting the wording I discovered there: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:26).”
As I now read this familiar passage, now worded in a way I wasn’t expecting, I was struck by the significance. Wasn’t this dealing with this very issue of a heart that responds to God and one that resists God? A heart that is tender as compared to a heart that is stubborn? I grew up under the ministry of a godly, humble, wise pastor. He admonished us regularly to pray for “a tender heart”. I heeded his admonition and prayed it consistently from the time I was a young girl. So as I read in Ezekiel, I was powerfully struck by the phrase, “tender, responsive heart“. And I began to understand that God had taught me, all those many years ago now, how to ask Him such a significant thing, to ask for my heart to remain tender despite all the devastations it would experience. He taught me to ask Him for the very thing that would often make me terribly vulnerable and sensitive to others, yet also kept me pliable and responsive to His voice. My God had helped guard my heart from becoming calloused.
I turned to the next study in my workbook (“Faithful, Abundant, True”) and it changed track. The next lesson was on spiritual discernment and assigned me to concentrate first on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. In it, Paul talks about the wisdom of God that is revealed to us through the Spirit, understanding that is spiritually discerned and impossible to know without Him. Then I was instructed to turn to 1 Kings 3:5-14. In it, God tells Solomon to ask for whatever he will (vs. 5), and Solomon replies: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” So God gave him wisdom and discernment, among other things.
I was still quite young when I first heard this Bible story, around 7 years of age; I still remember my Sunday School classroom and the flannel graphs. I loved the story because I learned that Solomon pleased God. I did not know what “wisdom” was, but it was what Solomon’s request. What most mattered to me was pleasing God so I began praying as a very young girl that God would grant me wisdom. I prayed it consistently throughout my childhood and even now, but for a different reason: I am keenly aware of how desperately I need His wisdom to deal with the challenges before me. As a young girl, I did not have the wisdom to understand the significance of this; I just felt a tug on my heart and a guarantee in Scripture that God is pleased with the request for wisdom (see also James 1:16). My part was that I loved God, wanted to please Him, and back then, before the chaos proved too great, I actually believed He liked me and loved me, and that He was pleased with me. While I did not know what to ask, I did know who to ask, who to seek, and who to trust.
I have discovered over recent days that my God, my wise and loving Father, has consistently been teaching me exactly what to ask of Him to keep me moving towards Him and with Him. Despite my unformed, incomplete childish reasoning, He moved in me and gave me understanding that was not my own. He taught me to pray two of the only 3 consistent prayers of my childhood: to keep my heart tender and to give me wisdom. These prayers are as familiar to me as the sight of my own hand; they are part of my internal wiring, part of who I am because I’ve prayed them so long. The third prayer was for Him to rescue me, and perhaps He gave me that one too, to keep my hope in Him. Either way, my God gave me what I needed to be able to pursue Him. He has been guarding my heart and mind far longer than I’ve understood, in ways I could never have guessed, with ramifications that make me who I am in Him today.