A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit. Psalm 51: 12
For he will be like a refiner’s fire. Malachi 3:2
At first the denial hurts. It feels like a punishment. So we are tempted to stop, and maybe we do.
In time we see how little there is that we truly cannot live without. We examine those things that are essential, and cherish them. Without the burden of our mindless actions or flaws, our hearts are clean, and we can love as we ought.
The image of the clean heart sounds like something that involves wiping ourselves away. But I believe that rather than putting parts of ourselves off to the side, we shed certain pieces that are not truly ourselves, that we don’t need, and what is left behind is the truest form of us.
At times we are faced with sacrifices we don’t choose, and heaven help us if we have not practiced some self-denial before hand. When this happened in my own life, I had the experience to know that this was just a season, and that my trauma was survivable. I even had the glimmer of hope that I would be transformed by it.
The image of the refiner’s fire is terrifying. We are scared not just of the pain of the fire, but of the loss of those bits of ourselves that we shouldn’t carry with us. But to come out on the other side purified is no less than our birthright.
I struggle every day to reveal a clean heart. When I do, I can say yes –or no – without compulsion. I can enter into the lives of others and put their needs before my own. Frustrations and bad habits pile on and I lose sight of the heart I am supposed to have. This is why I do Lent: to strip away the junk and attempt to reveal my purest heart, created for relationship, to be a mirror of God’s own.
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