Last weekend after I got home from a trip. My son and I were sitting on the couch talking. He held up his hands as he often does to see if his have grown bigger than mine (not yet!).
He was looking at my hands and asked me what the bumps are from. I explained that these were callouses from working with my hands – learning carpentry from my dad, working in the garden, raking leaves, rock climbing… He looked at his own hands – still baby soft.
My hands are a resume of years of working in a warehouse. Calluses formed to protect the tender skin from harm.
Later that night as I was reflecting on my day, that conversation resurfaced and a question skirted in and around my mind: Where else might calluses have formed? As I pondered on that question an image came to mind – my heart … covered in calluses.
I closed my eyes and sighed. That explained a lot. My heart is harder than it used to be. And sadly, much harder than I’d like it to be. It’s easy to see how I’ve gotten here. Each time I’ve been hurt, my approach to dealing with pain has been stoic.
The warrior-like determination inside me to protect myself had affected the softness of my heart. With each offense, each lie, each rejection, I made a silent declaration to not be hurt like that again.
I thought I’d handled things well because I hold no grudges. I’m desperately aware of my own sin and hold no accounts for offenses. But that image of a callused heart revealed the truth that I haven’t handled offenses as well as I thought. It’s hard dealing with people. We’re all sinful and make choices that hurt others.
But for me, over time suspicion replaced trust, and hyper-vigilance replaced peace. My empathy was diminished, which is a very dangerous heart-position for someone whom God has called to love others.
I’m convinced these calluses aren’t supposed to stay there. A callused heart may protect me from great pain, but it also keeps me from great love.
To love deeply, to love like Jesus, requires risk. I’ll be honest, that vulnerable position makes me want to wrap a few more layers around my tender heart, and vow beyond all measure to protect myself.
This makes me ask a question I really don’t like to ask. At all.
Am I willing to risk being hurt to obey the call to love?
King David, God’s warrior, spoke of this decision as a “sacrifice.” David was betrayed by those he loved and trusted. He had every right to seek revenge.
And yet Psalm 51 speaks of David’s desire for a pure heart and to tell others about God. In verse 17 he says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
Rather than choosing to protect his heart with pride, David chose brokenness and humility. He took his pain to God rather than move on like nothing happened.
It’s from this place of humility that God met David and cared for his broken heart. With God’s care, it mended in a healthy way, free from calluses.
There are some people I can’t trust. But that doesn’t apply to everyone. Rather, most are good folks who make an occasional mistake. They are the ones who need my softened heart.
So here’s my commitment. Rather than bandage my own wounds and act like I’m not hurt, I’m taking every offense to my Heavenly Father. Every day I’m praying, Lord, heal and soften my heart so I can love like You.
Lord, You alone know the many ways people have hurt me. And You see the hardened places in my heart that affect how I love others. I’m asking You to break my heart in a good way, Lord. Be my protection from the rough rubbing of the world, so I can be Your hands and feet to a world in need of Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”