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When was the last time your heart was changed by something you saw, did, or felt? Maybe your heart was warmed when a friend called unexpectedly or a stranger helped you push a heavy shopping cart through a snowy parking lot. Maybe your heart was softened by a baby’s big eyes and smile, or lightened by a glimpse of God’s glory in a sunrise, burst of laughter, or sweet taste of strawberries.
Or, maybe your heart has been cold. Maybe you’ve been hurt too many times, betrayed too often, scared too much. Maybe you’re protecting your heart because you just don’t want to get hurt again.
Some of us have been guarding our hearts for so long, we don’t even know we’re doing it. We’re on guard, defensive, easily frustrated and quickly angered. We got hurt a long time ago, and we’ve been hiding our hearts ever since.
The next time you meet someone who seems distant, unfriendly, cruel or angry, remember that they really do have a heart! Their heart was once soft, loving, trusting and open. But it got broken and is now buried so it doesn’t get hurt again.
Be gentle, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. And many of us are fighting that battle alone — even those of us who believe in God, trust Jesus Christ, and are aware of the Holy Spirit.
Easter Sunday is approaching. In the Christian faith, Good Friday and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion must come before the celebration of new life. Jesus’ death and resurrection is what brings life, joy, and truth to Easter! His death has the power to heal hurt bodies, revive dull spirits, and soften hard hearts.
A Hard Heart Softens
You’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to be changed by watching a crucifixion — unless, of course, you’d already seen a few dozen. You might develop an emotional tolerance, accepting that it’s just the way life is. Criminals got crucified in Jesus’ time, like robbers and rapists go to jail today.
Or perhaps you’d give the area a wide berth. It wouldn’t be easy because people were executed on the busiest, most public streets. But if you avert your eyes and hurry on by, your heart would stay guarded. Today it might be like swerving to avoid a dead deer on the road or a homeless person on the sidewalk.
But what if you work at the crucifixions? Maybe your job is to ensure the crosses are ready and waiting. Or perhaps you build crosses out of dogwood trees or make the heavy iron nails. Maybe you’re the man who crucifies men by hammering nails through hands and feet. Then you help pull the ropes and lift the cross upright.
Maybe your job is to ensure the mob doesn’t get too violent during a crucifixion. Not to mention the grieving friends and family members! They might go wild with anger and try to take the body down from the cross. Maybe your job is to control the crowd and guard the criminals.
Or maybe you’re the guy assigned to guard Jesus Christ.
The Roman centurion who was in front of Jesus when He breathed His last may have followed each stage of the crucifixion. This guard might’ve been with Jesus through it all: the arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, the sham trial, the beatings, the mockery, the torture, and the three hours of eerie darkness in the middle of the day.
This was no ordinary crucifixion, no ordinary man on the cross. The guard saw how Jesus endured humiliation, mockery, and torture. Jesus was different — but I don’t think this was enough to change the guard’s heart. He would’ve been cold and hard-hearted, used to seeing bloody, agonizing deaths and hearing screams of pain. The guard would’ve long ago built walls around his heart so he could do his job without breaking down emotionally or mentally.
And yet when the guard stood in front of Jesus and saw Him die, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
What caused the guard’s heart to change? Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was because the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Perhaps it was Jesus’ loud cry and last breath. Or, perhaps the power of the Holy Spirit was in Jesus’ final exhale of breath, swirling around the cross and into the Roman guard.
However it happened, the guard had a change of heart.
What about you? Maybe your heart was changed by Jesus long ago, but you and God have been distant lately. Life is so busy and the kids have sports and the spouse is sick and of course there’s always your job, volunteer work, chores, groceries, yard work. You don’t have time to think about God much less invite the Holy Spirit and pray for a softer, gentler, more loving heart.
This morning I participated in an imaginative prayer exercise. I met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, along with the two disciples in Luke 24. I walked with Him and answered His questions. He’s a pretty good question-asker, and He leaves lots of space for both me and the Holy Spirit to speak! My morning walk taught me two new things about myself and one new thing about God.
God loves healing hearts, minds, relationships, lives…but only if we invite Him in and stay in His presence. If being in Jesus’ presence was powerful enough to change the heart of a cold, hard, military-trained Roman solider, then it is powerful enough to soften our already spoken-for hearts.
Imagine yourself walking with Jesus on a quiet road. Picture yourself giving Him your heart — including the dark shadows, jagged edges and dead spots. What will He do with it? How will He receive it? How will your heart begin to soften, heal, and change?
This can be the beginning of a whole-hearted life.
If you’ve been guarding and protecting your heart for a long time, read Prayers to Soften and Heal the Hardest Hearts.
With His love,
New on She Blossoms
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