Monday, November 11, 2013

A look at the heart...

But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

The Lord looks at the heart. Isn’t it interesting to think God looks at the thing that no one else can see? Granted this verse isn’t referring to the beating organ in our chest, but what Samuel is being reminded of is God knows our thoughts and intentions. He sees past our good looks and nice smiles all the while overlooking the extra pounds and crooked teeth, the One who makes our heart beat understands the motives of it.

Perhaps we should pause and do an exercise…I encourage you to bow your head in prayer. Close your eyes and ask God to look at you and tell you what and who He sees.

If you’re not sure how to begin, pray the words of Psalm 26, “Test me Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Be still and listen to what He has to say. Take time and write down what He whispers to your heart.

Perhaps this exercise is difficult, maybe even painful as we pause long enough to be convicted, but friend remember there is purpose in the pain. God convicts us of things to make us better, to help us change and become who He made us to be.

Don’t work through this exercise too quickly or skip it all together; I know that is a possibility because I’ve been tempted not to include it myself.

Friend, I’ll be honest the report the great physician gave to me didn’t make me feel real good. I heard things like: sometimes I look at you and see selfishness, other times it’s laziness and there are moments when I see one who’s too quick to doubt. Not exactly the happy, uplifting little exercise I expected.

Quite frankly, I was stuck. Who wants to read a post that leaves you feeling depressed? How can asking God to examine my heart help me see myself in a better way?

Honestly I walked away from this post and thought I’ll write tomorrow.

But then God intervened like He always does…my husband asked me to help him and my initial mental response was I have enough to do, I’m tired and really I don’t want to do that right now. I pushed these thoughts to the side and joined my husband in the task at hand. Time passed quickly, eventually the job was done and we were both pleased.

He looked at me with a smile and said, “Thanks, I know you didn’t want to do that.” Friend, those words hit deep. One I was grateful for his appreciation. Two, I was surprised how he saw what I was thinking. And three, as we finished the thing I didn’t want to do I was blessed.

This project was not part of my plan, but God had clearly put it in my path. Remember how I said I put my thoughts aside? I was only able to do that by asking God to help me put my husband first, give me the strength and time to do what needed to get done. He helped me trust and embrace His plan when it didn’t match mine. He answered my prayer, helped me walk in obedience and blessed me as a result.

As I realized this, He instantly brought the heart examination exercise to mind and did two things with it. First, He showed me those ugly things He revealed are true and are areas I need to work on. He sees them and others do too. Secondly and just as importantly, He reminded me there is value in doing what I don’t want to do.

A couple of days have passed since I first wrote about the heart exam and God is continuing His work. Initially the findings He revealed hurt. I wanted to plug my ears and pretend I couldn’t hear what God was saying.

Those strategies didn’t work, so instead I kept seeking Him and looking for wisdom. Like the faithful Father He is, He responded with words to comfort my soul. Jill, if you want to know who you are, you need to know who I see. In the same way you put on a mask or make-up to hide your face from the world at times you do that with your heart as well. You may deny yourself of reality, but I know, I see your heart. Before you can really see the beauty I created when I made you, you must allow me access to the ugly. Remember only I can take what is broken and make it beautiful. Let me change you from the inside out.

Friend, perhaps this exercise hasn’t affected you the way it has me, but I want to share a bit more. Looking in the mirror has never been on the top of my to-do list and this heart examination has helped me understand why. Granted growing up, I never really thought about God thinking I was beautiful. But since accepting Christ as my savior and digging into God’s word, I know He thinks I am.

Knowing this and living like it is true are two different things though. I mean reading Psalm 45:11, “Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord,” doesn’t serve as a magic pill. I know this truth, but still avoided the mirror.

Deep down I now believe 1 Samuel 16:7 had something to do with it. Knowing the LORD looks at the heart impacts me and if you’re honest I’d have to guess you’d say the same. Though we can hide our outer blemishes and inner struggles from others, we too know our heart. When we deny God access and keep Him from examining our heart, the ugly that is there is something we see in the mirror.

So friend, I encourage you to constantly be in prayer and ask God to examine your heart. It’s something you might not want to do, but it’s what we need to do. Though we can’t see our inside, knowing God does can impact the way we see ourselves.

Now you might be thinking what good is it going to do if I allow God to examine my heart and reveal the ugly to me? I look in the mirror and do that myself already. I understand this thinking, that’s exactly why I wanted to forget this exercise. Believe me I didn’t want to make you, or myself, feel worse.

So before you leave my blog never to return again, I want you to think with me a bit about pearls. Chances are you’d like to put a string of them around your neck and look in the mirror; they are beautiful and something of value. But let me remind you, a pearl is a finished product. A pearl is something that is created inside a mollusk, an oyster shell which is not the finest thing to look at.

Some might say the shell around the pearl is ugly, but as time passes and the pearl is created we are left with a thing of beauty. Friend the same is true of our heart, a heart God created, sees and knows.

He isn’t a Father who just sees all of our faults (He does), but He also knows the good. Psalm 139 is one we’ve heard often, but it’s worth revisiting. Take a look at verses 13-14, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Friend all His works are wonderful, that means you and me. Let’s stop and ask our question once again, “Who Am I?” Perhaps we’ve given an answer that is based on our appearance, the face we see in a mirror, but I pray as you’ve read this you realize that’s not an answer God gives.

He wants us to look inward, just like He does, and realize beauty begins in the heart. 1 Peter 3:3,4 tells us, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

In God’s eyes beauty is not something we see in the mirror or add on as an accessory, it comes from within. Proverbs 31 tells us beauty is fleeting, but the inner beauty Peter is talking about doesn’t fade away. Actually friend, time adds to this beauty.

Let’s commit to asking God who we are, pledge to believe what He says and allow Him to examine our heart. This process will help us see who He sees and thus become who He created us to be. We might still be little (or big), but we are beautiful when our heart is pure, our motives are right and our character is like Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Jill, my mom prays daily that the beauty of the Lord will be seen in her. Do you know that every time I take my mom somewhere, and I'm not kidding, at least one person comes over to us and tells her how beautiful she is...I'm serious. This is a little 88 year old woman, using a walker, almost reduced down to skin and bones, yet every time I take her out she receives a compliment. I 100% believe that this is in response to her daily prayer. Not that I don't think my mom is beautiful, I will always see her as beautiful, but in the world's eyes she's a little old lady...yet...someone remarks on her beauty all the time. They are seeing the radiance of God's presence shining through her life.

    I don't know if you know this chorus or not, but:

    "Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
    All His tender compassion and purity
    All His nature divine
    All my nature refine
    'Til the beauty of Jesus is seen in me."

    Yes Lord, may it be so.