Pieces / by Michael Nichols

It's the first full week of 2015, and some of us are doubtlessly dreading it already. I'm not one to make resolutions, but maybe you are. Maybe you'll break them, or maybe you won't.

Maybe, you've always loved the thought of a fresh start, another year to spin like a slow-motion top around the sun on the table of space and invent corny metaphors for it. Personally, I do, new year or not. Every day is a fresh start. Did you know that? Every day is a brand new year.

Others are not so optimistic. Honestly, most years, I've not been. I'm more or less than apathetic to holidays in general because I feel we should carry their meanings daily; yet how often do we truly do that? There have been years, too, during which I dreaded the year to come, and what horrors it would bring. It was a learned behavior. When you hate what has come before, often times it becomes easy to dread what is to come after.

The idea of brokenheartedness is nothing new to mankind. Since day one, friends have betrayed friends, lovers have betrayed lovers, children have betrayed parents and vice versa, nations have betrayed nations... humanity has betrayed God. You know, it's an amazing thing--the story of God's nation, that is. The lineage of Abraham is riddled with deceit and betrayal. Heck, Jacob, who was renamed "Israel" and whose name the nation has borne since, tricked his own brother into selling his birthright for a bowl of soup! It probably wasn't even good soup! I mean, if you've ever had broccoli cheddar soup from Panera Bread, you understand, and it probably wasn't that.

And what of Jacob's sons? They brutalized their brother, his favorite son, and sold him into slavery! Yet God decided to take their evil and turn it on its head, saving their family and others from a famine that had come to the land by giving them refuge in Egypt, wherein Joseph the slave rose to become Pharaoh's second! Eventually, their descendents became slaves to the Egyptians, though. God did not abandon them, though. He sent Moses to lead them out from Pharaoh's rule, back to their homeland. And how did they repay the Lord? Idolatry! They melted metal into the form of a cow. A cow. A flipping cow, for mooing crying out loud! But when was a cow ever seen leading the hordes of locusts, or carrying the death angel on his back, or parting the Red Sea? I'm guessing never, and I'm guessing probably not since.

So God led them in the desert for forty years, until such a time as people learned to trust Him, or those who refused to let the One who knows what He's doing lead them, had died. He wanted His people to be ready for the world, but they had none of it. In fact, they were kept in the desert for forty more years because they still weren't ready. The God who always provided for their every need and defended them from every attack received little thanks from His people. I mean, He wasn't being selfish. They needed Him, so how and why should He lead them forward if they're not ready to move?

How cold of a child, to be given such a gift, yet give his Father venom to drink in return! I imagine that mingled with His anger, which was righteous, God was probably hurt. How could His children, whom He loves, be so hard, so stone-hearted, as to betray Him for an inanimate effigie of something He Himself created? You see, it takes a hard heart to break another heart, but it also takes a hard, yet fragile heart to be broken.

Imagine what it would be like to have your lover betray you for another. It's very hard to imagine without experiencing it firsthand. Trust me when I say that I and a great many people I know understand betrayal, both to do it and to feel it. To give up a person and blatantly injure him or her with little to no remorse is impossible to describe on either end of the relationship, but I can say this: it hardens you, and it continues to harden you. Then, when you've hardened enough, you either break someone, or someone breaks you.

And the truth is that no one ever expects it to go that far. People don't feel that it's a big deal to betray in whatever way they have chosen. Otherwise, why would they do it? We perceive scenarios in which we receive the things we want and believe are the best for us, but in lusting after what we desire most, we fall out of love, hardening our hearts and breaking others. Once all is said and done, before anyone knows it, shards of souls are left lying on the floor, helpless, too damaged to be put back together, even though we often wish to repair it, or think we can repair it. That's the state of the human heart, whether in its infancy or its seniority. But we have been given a great promise:

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

--the Spirit of the Lord through His prophet Ezekiel

The whole idea is that our old heart turned to stone. How can a stone heart ever beat? How can petrified lungs ever breathe? Even after the nation of Israel had been established, the people remained rebellious, as did so many of its kings. Constantly betrayed was the Lord. So He saw fit to use the nation of Babylon to remove them from their homeland, then take them back after years had passed. By putting them through exile, He essentially ripped out their old heart and put a new one in its place. But this is only the surface-level meaning of this passage. It was a prophecy that one day, in Jesus, we would find so much more.

Rebirth by the Spirit of the Lord replaces that stone heart with one made of flesh. It can actually, you know, pump blood through the body. In the days of the kingdom of Israel, replacing the nation's heart took exile. Since Jesus came and paid the penalties for our sins, though, things can look much, much different. The "new spirit" God promised to put "within you" is His. When we truly trust in Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, his unstoppable life and love, that He really is God, and He really is good, He gives us His spirit. He is the one who guides us, changes us, convicts us when we're out of God's will, rejoices when we're in it, reveals to us the deeper nature and plans of the Lord when we need to know them. His is the new life in old veins.

A heart that beats for itself breaks. A heart that beats for its Maker does not, though it can still be injured sometimes, yet not without repair. A lot of times, we treasure sweet moments in our past before our hearts were broken, but why long to see such times return? God is always moving us closer to Him if we're seeking Him out, returning us to His original plan for the world. We were always meant to find life in Him, so if that old heart was incapable of sustaining my life, why should I want it back?

Every breaking of my old heart is a little more room for Jesus to put His new heart in its place. Should I not trust that He will do what He says? Am I too busy chasing the pieces of my shattered heart to chase Jesus? But now, I know He has a better heart to put in its place, and a living spirit. I don't need my old heart back. I need a new one.