I heard a comedian talking recently about the funny phrases we use to cover up insults. In the South, it’s “Bless her heart” – as in “The poor girl just wasn’t given a face that will attract a husband, bless her heart”. Where I come from, if we end a sentence with “no offense”, you can be sure someone was just offended. A few words tacked onto a mean-spirited comment do not transform it into something else. They simply serve to gloss over your real intent, bless your heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
A friend of mine sent this verse to me last week, worried over what he saw as the reality of his situation. No matter how hard he tried, he would always be wicked, he thought. We talked at length about the saving righteousness of Christ, and about God’s love.
I had no way of knowing the journey it would launch me on.
Most believers can attest to the experience. God has a message to get through to you, and suddenly it appears everywhere. The first time you hear it, it pricks you. The next time, it nudges you. Before long, it is the only thing you see when you look in the mirror, the only thing you hear when you open the Book. Sometimes, blessedly, it is a comforting or encouraging message.
“I am with you always” is one of my favorites. I like that one.
But sometimes, it is a message we do not want to face. For instance, “Your heart is deceitful and wicked”. That one doesn’t flow quite so well. That one stings and causes me to fall to my knees in desperation. That one forces me not to look outwardly at others, but in the mirror, at myself.
Every day, I pray that God will reveal that which is in me that is not of Him. God’s communication with me started with my friend asking about that verse I rarely consider. It continued with another conversation, when I was asked to critique my own part in a situation objectively. Then, in my news feed, a link to a blog post. It seemingly blinked neon at me, begging me to click it – “I’m Simply Better than You”. Reading it convicted me as surely as a hanging judge.
I climbed in my car this morning, and my friend, who is a radio morning show personality, was talking about how we lie to ourselves, and how insidious it can be. I felt the slap across the face tangibly, I can tell you. And when I came home, the Lord told me as I prayed that He was answering my prayer. He was revealing to me that which is in my heart, and is not of Him.
And as all things not of Him, it is ugly.
Deceit is ugly.
The exact situation, the words, the people are all unimportant because truly, it is my overriding penchant for deceit that is being exposed. I have been lying to myself on deep levels, really without being aware. I didn’t mean to. I thought I was doing ok. I really do love Him and wish to serve Him.
But the reality is this. Covering up my self-righteousness with words of love and camaraderie doesn’t make it any less repugnant. Suppressing my arrogance beneath prayers for others to change, or situations to change in my favor, only makes it appear prettier from a distance. Up close, it reeks.
We simply think we are better than others. We think we can be better people than those we see around us. We see situations we don’t agree with and we think “If only they would listen to ME…”
And maybe, in some situations, they should. And maybe, in many situations, we ARE judging rightly. And maybe we HAVE been placed in a situation for such a time as this. All these things are true. The Lord asks His people to discern and pray. Absolutely.
But when we lie to ourselves about our motives, it becomes lipstick on a pig. We tack on those phrases –
“I really just want the best for her” ;
or ” I don’t wish him any ill will”
when what we really mean is
“God, you know I am right. Get them!”
Our correctness or error in a situation becomes irrelevant. Because for Him, everything is about the heart. Everything.
The good news is that my Lord doesn’t reveal and rebuke to punish, but to bring me closer to Him. And to be fair, He did exactly what I prayed for Him to do. To show me what was not of Him. And I think I can trust my heart on this one – my heart’s cry is to be closer to Jesus, to act like Jesus, to love like Jesus. His grace towards me is stunningly beautiful. I want to reflect that to others.
Be encouraged. The verse tells us in no uncertain terms that our heart can deceive us. But He will not allow those who love Him to operate in deceit, if we chose not to and ask for His help.
He is faithful to His promise to make us more like Him, until we are with Him. Look in the mirror, and see Him looking back.