For the past two days, I have developed a new prayer. I have been praying for a softened heart. I have been praying that God would touch me, eliciting a better sense of forgiveness toward anything and everything that might ever upset me on my daily walk.
In a sense, having a soft heart that forgives easily is an echo of former President George H. W. Bush’s call in 1988—almost 30 years ago—for a “kinder, gentler nation.” But I don’t echo President Bush because I am political. Quite the contrary. I decided years ago that I would keep up with the essentials in current events only. Anything more, for me, destroys peace of mind. Yet this President’s remarks echo a need that we all have, to live more peaceable lives. And that is as true in this century as it was in the last, and the one before that, and so on.
I have learned something from my new prayer in just the past couple of hours. A softened heart hurts more because I am no longer hiding behind barricades of defense. This pain lets me realize, as nothing else would as well, that God is answering my prayer. I know from previous experiences of God in prayer that He won’t leave me in pain. As I ask to feel God’s love more completely, the hurt will subside.
Why did I ask for a softened heart? I sensed that I would never know God as I want to know Him without feeling “mellow.” Mellowness invites a gentle spirit. It is a warm and good feeling.
But God is not coddling me in my latest experiences in prayer. He may like my request for a softened heart, but He probably doesn’t want me to be “soft.” He needs strong, steady individuals to walk this earth. He needs tenderness, yes, but tenderness is not softness. Softness, if not supported by an assertive will, is weakness. And God’s best will for us echoes something that we all know: The right kind of gentleness is strength.
So: As I walk with God in this hour, I wait somewhat impatiently for the pain in my softened heart to ease. I anticipate relief by bedtime this day, for God does not wait long to act. I will record tomorrow what God’s action with me has been.
Next Day: God waited longer than I wanted Him to wait. He didn’t ease my pain by bedtime, but as today has worn on, I have realized that He is acting on my behalf. He is leading me, ever so gently, to cease being judgmental of the ones with whom I come in contact. Judgment is far from a softened heart, and He seems to be saying to me that the pain was to crack open my heart to something better—no pain, but also no judging thoughts.
We can’t have a kinder, gentler world if we are constantly finding fault with one another. This promotes self-righteousness, surely the least lovable of traits.
Perhaps my prayer for a softened heart was recognizing that too many of my thoughts are judgmental, fault-finding. A softened heart and a judgmental heart seem at opposite ends of the spectrum.
So I walk past pain to something better, an image of a heart that gives up judgment for a kinder, gentler world. My little world.
God walks with us, as we find our pathway through this world we have been given. His lessons lead us to know what to pray, and then he takes us through that particular lesson. As I write this, I am once again happy, pain-free. And I have not been judging today.
Am I not happy and pain-free because I have ceased judging? There is a link there. And it behooves me to keep this thought in mind and heart as I walk, ever further, on my journey.