When it’s 75° and sunny, I have lots of motivation to get out of the house and go for a run. When it’s 50° and cloudy, I can still muster up some enthusiasm. But when it’s 30° or below I need supernatural power – or at least someone else to drag me out the door 😉
This winter, I have someone to do just that! Tim and I have set a goal to do at least one trail run a week – regardless of the temperature and weather conditions (😱). Motivated by a bucket list of trails we want to complete, we’ve braved the cold and succeeded thus far.
Since winter in Pennsylvania = cold and damp, most trails require careful, slow maneuvering through sections of slippery mud and muck. So a few weeks ago when we set out on the Chapel Trail in Valley Forge and temperatures had just risen out of the 20’s, I was happy to see that all the mud on this shaded trail was frozen. This meant more running and less thinking, which was good because I just wanted to get this over with and get back in my warm house!
Unfortunately, my ankles reminded me that just because something is hardened doesn’t mean it’s solid or secure. Though mud is slippery, it does absorb your foot’s impact – which the crusty ridges and ruts of frozen trail-traffic do not!
If you live in Pennsylvania, you know that temperatures at this time of the year are unpredictable. We usually hover in the 40’s, but it’s not unusual for us to drop, for several days, into the single digits.
And wherever you live, you know this is also true of our hearts. Our seasons and the atmospheric conditions they bring with them affect us more than we like to think and if we aren’t careful, the freeze can leave us hardened and crusty!
“Hard” hearts are present throughout Scripture and occur for several different reasons:
- The Egyptian Pharaoh’s (Exodus 7-11) was the result of his refusal to acknowledge an authority higher than himself.
- The Israelites’ (Psalm 95) was the product of disappointment after God didn’t do things the way they expected Him to.
- For the “Gentiles” mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4, it was denial that another being could have a say over their life of self-fulfillment and pleasure.
- The disciples’ (Mark 6 & 8) came from an incomplete understanding of Jesus’ power over the forces of nature.
Hard hearts in the Bible were always the result of either unbelief or more specifically mis-belief in God’s nature or intentions. In most cases this hardness developed over time, in barely noticeable stages, as the heart slowly stopped absorbing truth, leaving its own truth to be preeminent.
When we think of “hard hearts” it’s easy to think of these Bible characters or even other people we know, but the whole thing with a hard heart is the subtle nature of the freeze. It happens when I allow a trust in my own authority and ability to make decisions to creep in, rather than regularly praying and submitting my will to God’s will. The frost permeates when I allow my life circumstances to speak louder to me than the Scriptures that speak of the nature of my God. The chill settles in when I stick a “not a big deal” label on my sin and decide I’m okay with “okay”. And the ice forms when I get so honed in on my own life that I limit my understanding of what God can do to my own experiences.
Last year I began studying the book of John verse-by-verse, but because I believe it’s important to stay flexible, I took a break and did some other studies. I was excited to pick back up where I left off this January, and that excitement lasted… all of a few days. First came a passage I’ve studied and taught on many, many times, so I’m kind of over it. Second was a passage that seemed overly theologically complicated and not worth my time. And when I got through that, guess what? Another passage I’ve studied and taught on so.many.times.
My heart wants me to do the bare minimum, shut my Bible, and move on because “I already know all of this” and “Maybe I should look for something more exciting to study”. But I also know that this is exactly how those crusty ridges and ruts begin to form. Even if I’m not learning something super new and cool (or finding something I can write a super new and cool blog post about 😉), the interaction of my heart with God’s Word is keeping it warm and absorbent!