Take a moment and place your hand on your chest, breathing in deeply and becoming aware of the physical organ that beats inside to pump life and blood to every part of your body. The blood that’s pumped to your brain allows you to think and make decisions and causes the rest of your body to function. The blood pumped to your fingers and toes makes them able to move, run, work, and play. The blood pumping through your organs makes them work together to maintain life. If blood is cut off from any part of the body, that part dies. Without a healthy physical heart, your body cannot survive, and life ceases to exist.
The same is true for this metaphysical heart governing from the inside. This inner realm — the center of your being — is the origin of every move you make, every word you speak, every thought you think, and every action you take. Plainly put, your insides produce your outsides. You are the landlord of your heart, and you control who takes up residence. When God moved into your life, you didn’t sign over ownership papers to your building where He took control. Rather, He gave you possession of your heart long ago and will never take back that gift. He will always be the leasing tenant, defaulting to your choices, and you will always own the property. You can choose to let Him rent out the entire building (and that is our ultimate goal as believers), but as long as you’re harboring old wounds, beliefs, unforgiveness, and lies — allowing them to make themselves at home in your heart — Jesus won’t bust in and kick them out. He needs your permission. He needs your master key. He needs you to give Him access to every floor, every room, and every locked, forgotten space.
For many years I didn’t understand this, wanting God to just barge in and take over my heart while I lifted my hands in a worship service, putting me on autopilot. I expected myself to be perfect, or imperfect — I was either sinless or a complete fraud. I didn’t understand that the gift of grace was like a lifetime warranty that covered the process of my heart transformation, empowering me to live differently. I didn’t acknowledge that my heart had taken decades to break and that it might take some intentionality to heal. I didn’t realize that God’s whole purpose for moving into my mess was to ensure that my heart was renovated properly, room by room and floor by floor. God has never been overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done inside my building or condemned me for how trashed it became over the years. In fact, He knew I didn’t have the tools, knowledge, strength, or power to make everything new the way He did — which is why He chose to make my heart His home.
As I have walked the hard road towards my own healing, I have found that heart transformation is never about finishing a perfect building, then sitting back and relaxing for the rest of my life. It’s about living in relationship with the God who resides within — learning how to surrender more inner space and lease to Him all the real estate that my heart has to offer.
The apostle Paul sums it up beautifully:
This entire building is under construction and is continually growing under His supervision until it rises up, completed as the holy temple of the Lord himself. This means that God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, His dwelling place through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you. — Ephesians 2:21–22
The problem is, because we will continue to live in a world where unexpected tornados will destroy, where wounded people keep wounding us, and where the enemy has his wrecking ball aimed at crumbling our hearts to the ground, we will always need a handy repairman as life takes its toll. Thankfully, we have continual access to a brilliant Carpenter, a Master Architect, and a General Contractor with an arsenal of power tools, ready to repair, restore, and renew everything.
Pain Can Be Healed
You can’t control the storms that pound against the walls of your inner realm, but you can control whether or not your heart chooses to become a shelter of peace during those storms. You can’t control your parents’ decision to divorce, but you can choose whether or not your heart grows bitter and cold. You can’t control that you don’t have a job, but you can choose whether or not you move into anxiety or stay steady with trust. You can’t control the betrayal of a spouse, but your heart can choose to forgive. The space inside of your heart is the only place where you will ever have full ownership and authority. You are the guardian of your heart, and as the final say over your inner realm, you’re the only one who can decide what happens next.
At this very moment, your life is the sum total of all the choices you have made, because you’re the only one who can make them.
You can either choose to surrender your heart to pain monsters, or to a Healer who died to make everything whole.
As I sit in a coffee shop writing these pages just five months after losing my daughter to a condition I didn’t even know existed, called anencephaly, I have already had three people stop by my table and ask with genuine concern, “How are you really doing, Christa?”
When people have asked me this, most of them expect me to lie, rambling off the cliché answer, “Oh, I’m fine,” to try to avoid an awkward moment. Some might think I will clam up and change the subject, or possibly even burst into tears. And when the uncontrollable tears do flow from time to time, I’m never ashamed of them. But today, and every day since my Luca Gold left my life to head home and be with Jesus, when asked this question, a part of my heart has been able to answer in a remarkable way that I never thought possible.
“Today is the most painful day of my life, but my heart is still thriving.”
Excerpted with permission from Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford, copyright Christa Black Gifford.
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Most of us are going to go through unanticipated, unimaginable pain in this life: the loss of parents, friends, betrayals, church splits, family rifts, the death of a loved one far too young. I have and you probably have, too. But, as Christa says, we can still thrive if we’re surrendered to our great Healer. Are you answering “I’m fine” even through a painful time? Or do you feel free to let tears flow? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full