"and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 NRSV
Usually, in reading scripture, there is one word that causes some spiritual stirring in me; today, that word is tenderhearted. Most of us arrive in this world in happy circumstances. We are surrounded by people who love, care, and only want what is best for us. Sadly, at some point, we begin to have experiences that challenge our once held security. It can be a tragic loss of a family member, cruel treatment by someone we once thought a friend or that break-up in your first relationship. When that occurs, our human defense mechanism kicks in, building walls of protection. With each new bad thing, we may raise the wall higher, until at some point there is such a barrier that we may feel nothing at all. We lose the tender heart of a child and become hardhearted.
Several places in scripture talk about the condition of hardened hearts and the prescription. Thanks to God's grace, there is a cure. In Ezekiel 11:19, God delivers this message in his promise to return Israel from exile, "I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." In accepting Jesus, we begin to take the first steps in tearing down those walls. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to forgive those who have hurt us and, perhaps more importantly, forgive ourselves.
God, we give you thanks for the cure for our hardened hearts. We confess we build up walls of self-protection that, in the long run, harm us. In creating these barriers, we hurt ourselves, others, and, ultimately, our relationship with you. Please create a new spirit in us, make our hearts of stone soft, pliable, and kind. Please help us to forgive others and ourselves. In the name of Christ, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
What are the stones in your life you would like to have removed? What is standing between you and the forgiveness of others and yourself?