Friday, May 27, 2011

Chinese Water Torture

I bumped my heart against a familiar rock a couple of days ago. A painful bruise began to reappear, a well-known throbbing, while the offending rock seemed as unscathed and unyielding as ever. I rued my apparent failure to recall a lesson learned many, many times before.

On reflection, it seems the only way to avoid the vulnerability is to avoid the contact; a strategy that’s safe, but which doesn’t mirror Jesus. Trying to be like Him inevitably involves personal pain. I don’t like that part. But on this side of eternity, it seems there are no other options. As C.S. Lewis once noted, to protect one’s heart and ensure it is kept safe and unhurt inevitably leads to its petrification…it hardens and becomes impervious until it’s really not a heart at all. It becomes painless and useless.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 the Lord counsels parents to carry His commandments “on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Kind of brief, these instructions, and really not too difficult to understand. A couple of things they don’t include, however, are suggestions for when the children’s hearts won’t yield to the impression; nor when to ‘call it a day,’ and decide that the mission has failed and our parental duty is absolved. I think I might be forgiven for thinking these commands are incomplete; then I remember Who the Author is and remind myself that He is never incomplete.

So, where does this leave me? (1) I’m not responsible for the outcome, or the unyieldingness of my target; and (2)to give up is to defy the modeling of my heavenly Father. Neither of these conclusions is comfortable nor satisfying.

Thus, I wonder if perhaps I must employ a sort of spiritual Chinese water torture, on the rocky heart of my child. Such a practice is both tedious and numbing. One can’t see whether any impact is being made at all. On the other hand, one can’t see that no impact is being made either. It’s just the slow drip-drip-drip of drops of Truth, coming forth aloud from a parent’s mouth to the stony ears of the prodigal or in silent prayer to the One Who knows.

A wise woman once told me that we ‘don’t know what we don’t know.’ That axiom contains ample room for both frustration and hope. But a parent in possession of truth wields an unconquerable weapon. I need to be faithful to continually pick it up and stand at the ready; and to humbly ask for His help when the burden grows too heavy or my heart too faint.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
[Hebrews 4:12]

No siren song of the world, nor chattering of the Enemy, has such effect. Like barnacles on a ship hull, the work of the devil sprouts as a deadly barrier to freedom and new life, impeding forward progress. Only the cleansing and insurmountable power of God’s truth is effective to burn it away.

In the meantime, I accept that my assignment is to faithfully drip the tonic of truth onto the rock and trust that the granite cask imprisoning my child’s hearat is being eroded. Though I don’t see any progress yet, I know the One Who does.

”Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." [Hebrews 4:13]