This is one of my favorite “refresh” passages:
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”
Did you know that is immediately followed by this?
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
I posted the following comments a few years ago on Collect Yourself. I think it’s still true:
The more I study Christ, grow in my understanding of what it means to follow Him, look closely at those whose lives I would like to emulate, the more I become aware of my wicked heart.
Not that my heart is growing more wicked, I think it’s always been just about this degree of wicked. I think it is just that I am seeing into its depths more clearly, or perhaps more deeply. I am not really liking what I see. At all.
I know growing a relationship with Jesus is a process. And processes take time. And there are layers. Like onions. And sometimes smelly like onions, too. So just when I think I’ve gotten victory over one thing, here comes another. Or sometimes a deeper evaluation of the same thing. Groan.
I used to think this was God’s fault. And of course it is, but I mean I used to think He was doing this to show me how wicked I am, how unworthy, how depraved a heart I have. And of course “a good Christian girl” feels guilt. All the time. Right? So there I was going from glory-to-glory but feeling actually like going from guilt-to-deeper-guilt. Purification didn’t seem so pure. It seemed ugly. And I was a constant failure.
But now I think that it is simply God gently peeling away the rotten outer layers. Maybe carving off a bruised spot on the apple, chipping away the rust on the pot. So maybe it’s not painless, and maybe it’s not always fun, but I am starting to believe that it is what it is and I don’t need to feel any way about it at all, other than to know this is part of the process and, while on this earth, I can simply submit to the process, and let it be. I can extend grace to myself and not a guilt trip. I can trust in God’s love for me – that He does this to make me a better human being, more fit for His kingdom, more suited to carry out whatever it is He has for me to do here. I can turn off the voice, which is not His, that says I am a total screw-up.
I read this the other day, and I believe it’s true: “I will love God because He first loved me. I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. Accepting God’s kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bridge that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with His love.” 1
Accepting God’s love and loving Him in return is the cure for the curse of the ever-present wicked heart.
And who wouldn’t a life lived like one of those lovely trees mentioned above?
1 From Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller