Tough Hearts, Soft Hearts

by - May 19, 2010

I love the paradox of gentle toughness. I see it primarily in the life of Jesus with his deep sensitivity to the hearts of people and his ability to shoulder the greatest verbal and physical insults. It would seem that truly tough people would also lack tenderness. My own son defies this as he shows great awareness of people around him, concern when someone is upset, and checks on me when I cry; but when he falls and scrapes his knee, he might cry for a second but quickly is ready to keep playing. Scooby is such a sweet little boy clamoring for snuggles on the couch and kisses at bed time and yet so tough not letting bumps and bruises get in the way of his goals. It makes me proud to be his mama. (Of course now he is wailing at me because the band aid is bothering his knee.)

This paradoxical character doesn't develop for everyone, and Jesus (who knows no sin) and a toddler (who knows no suffering) probably aren't the best examples for understanding how to develop this in our own lives. David's Psalms best reflect a truly stubborn and selfish man who is completely wrecked by God's goodness - and the resulting toughness and deep humility, passion and sensitivity are phenomenal. I will always love Lamentations 3 as well, which contrasts suffering and pain with waiting quietly for God's salvation. Personally, I don't consider myself a person who has suffered much, though I have endured struggles and disappointments. Had these been allowed to fester and become points of bitterness, I can imagine my heart developing thick callouses preventing me from feeling the bad and the good, but yes, making me very tough.

I believe that as we endure struggles through the lens of Jesus and his Grace, instead of building up a shield around our hearts, He strengthens the heart itself, enabling it to endure more difficult obstacles and also enabling it to love more deeply with even greater gentleness. Often, I've chosen the first path of resentment towards my obstacles or rejection. The repercussions on my soul created an environment that nearly eroded my ability to feel anything except my anger and frustration. Everything in my life became a reaction to that initial insult and everything was then bread out of that pain. I really didn't like what I saw when I looked at my heart. However in times when I've reached out to God for healing and understanding, my life began reflecting his goodness. It seemed that subsequent trials and pain felt sharper and stung more deeply but injured me less. I didn't lie in my pain, but knew how to find heeling. I knew how my temptations for resentment would attack, and I got myself ready.

I think the most difficult trials are those which steadily and quietly take hold of our hearts. The ones where we find ourselves untethered from the dock and drifting out from shore. It's the quiet exhaustion that comes from days and then weeks of just maintaining pace. It comes from failing to daily align the heart with scripture. It comes with delaying the processing of the quiet convictions on our hearts. We develop callouses not from bitterness and suffering, but from failing to worship God in the both the trials and the times of ease. Our hearts grow relaxed, as if we've sucked down one too many margarita's on the beach and failed to see a small army of red crabs with pinchers extended encircling our lounge chair. Had we only been ready and alert, we could be having crab legs for dinner! But alas, this is going to hurt.

This is where I find myself. I've been at ease in general, and I see that I'm about to go through an extreme emotional and physical test going from one kid to two. I should be more prepared. (I also really wish I could have been sipping margaritas.) I've been made tough in the past, but I've let down my guard. Buying pacis, mattress pads, and stocking up on diapers isn't the preparation that is needed. It's time to be in prayer and scripture.

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  1. You're awesome....and thank you for that post.......I can't believe you are so close to your due date! God is good!

  2. Great post, Paige. I was just reading Andrea's recent post about suffering and pain - your thoughts fit in well with hers too. So now they're all swirling around in my mind and working their way through the "processing" process.

    Mostly I just love having so many women in my life who love Jesus and strive hard to figure out how to live their lives for His sake and not our own. In short: thank you. :-)



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