I’ve told many people now that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 12 years old, but I didn’t start acting like it until I was 28 and didn’t die in a bus accident. That sounds weird though, huh? Like…what DID I act like for those 16 years in between?
Well…I’m not going to give you all the details because that would just make the devil happy, but I will tell you that I spent the better part of those years grieving the Holy Spirit (and my parents…bless them). How do I know that I was grieving the Holy Spirit? Because. I. Was. Miserable.
In the 36th chapter of Ezekiel, God says to us, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Although my 12-year-old self did not fully understand what trading in a heart of stone for a heart of flesh meant in that moment, God did. God knew every teenage-angst-filled choice that was to occur. He knew every loney, lost, and selfish 20-something decision that I would make. He knew I was not going to, as He put it, “walk in [His] statutes” or “obey [His] rules.” (Maybe He meant “hard-headed” instead of “heart of stone.”)
He also knew that He would BE there with me while it was all going down–whether I wanted Him to be there or not! He regularly reminded me that I needed Him–even if I didn’t want to hear it. He often reminded me that my sin was painful, but His burden was light–even if I shrugged off His desire to carry my burden.
He was there to comfort His child in those rare moments that I did decide to turn to Him and ask, if only for a moment or two before turning back to old habits, old behaviors, old sins. Until one day–March 29, 2006 to be exact–I didn’t die in a bus crash. I was a high school soccer coach on my way with a bus full of excited young girls to the first round of the state playoffs that day, until we weren’t.
Our bus crashed killling 2 of my players and resulting in life-altering injuries to many more. I was 28 years old that day. I felt 12. I was scared beyond comprehension. I was in shock. I turned to God and cried out for His help..and He was there. He had always been there. He never left. I just didn’t make a habit of seeking Him. But that day–and every day since–I’ve not let myself forget that He IS THERE…with me.
He will never leave me or forsake me. Since that day, I’ve learned so much about this “heart of flesh” versus the “heart of stone.” This “heart of flesh” causes me to look to Him at the start of each new day and not to the things of this world. This “heart of flesh” calls me to love people right where they are…just for who they ARE…not who I may want them to be. This “heart of flesh” causes me to WANT to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
And this “heart of flesh” calls me to know Him and be loved by Him and rest in His undeserved grace and in His endless mercy. I am so thankful that His Holy Spirit came to reside in my soul at 12-years old and never left…not even for a second. And I’m thankful that God continues to chip away at that old stone heart and give me more of that heart of flesh He talks about in Ezekiel.
And YOU can rest in the truth that God has a plan to exchange that hard-headed “heart of stone” for a “heart of flesh” if that’s what you seek. All you have to do is know He’s there…and ask!