Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
Our hearts can either be guarded from God in doubt and distrust, or peace will guard our hearts through relationship as we abide in Christ. ~Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole
It has been thirty-one years since I decided to return to the church I was only sporadically exposed to during my childhood. I know instinctively that what I've been missing in my shallow, faltering life is God. And the only way I know to find him is in church.
The moment I step from narthex to nave, the miraculous occurs. God greets me! Audibly! Welcome home! The voice booms like thunder in my head. I am awestruck. Amazed! Beside myself with an indescribable joy.
This prodigal has arrived at the beginning of beginnings, not knowing where the journey will lead, but all in for what God has in store for my life.
As the days, weeks, months, and yes, years pass since that spiritual turning point, I attend church faithfully, involving myself and my children in as many activities as possible. I look to all the world like a practicing Christian, but on the inside, I'm unexpectedly, disappointingly, battling doubts about my faith.
I try to push them away, blaming their presence on years of secular upbringing, but the harder I try, the more intense they become. When I look around at my fellow parishioners during worship services, their faces pure and pious (or so I perceive), I am so envious of their whole-hearted acceptance of all God is and was and will be. Why can't I just let go? Let go and let God? Why does my heart doubt?
And every Sunday, when we reach the point of the confessional prayer, the words, "we have not loved you with our whole heart," never cease to leap out of me, shaking their little fists of blame and accusation. I know what is wrong. I simply don't know how to fix it.
I wish, back then, that I had had these wise words of Christa Black Gifford in the third chapter, The Doubting Heart, of Hearts Made Whole: "The deceiver knows that if he can get you to question God as a good Father - believing that He doesn't love you fiercely, that He doesn't fight to protect you, that He didn't send His only Son to restore you to His embrace - then you will begin to withhold pieces of your heart from Him, just as I did."
You see, the devil, who had held me fast in his clutches for so long, deluding himself into thinking he has a prize catch, is enraged by this path I've chosen instead. He plays every game with my heart and mind, constantly placing those doubts there, staying me from moving past religion into true relationship with God. He is a tenacious, tortuous enemy, but he cannot and does not win.
For my God who loves me fiercely, who fights to protect me, who died to save me, reveals to me His truth: I can love because He loved me first.
I need not guard my heart any longer.
I can trust Jesus to guard it for me.
Who guards your heart?
For the next six Wednesdays, I will be discussing the book, Heart Made Whole, with fellow Christian bloggers. Jason Stasyszen, Sarah Salter and Glynn Young. Want to join us? Simply order your book at Amazon and chime in on chapter four next week. We would love to have you!