I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
I’m currently studying Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love whilst preparing to write a series of daily devotionals for Lent. Whilst contemplating the context of her first vision, the crown of thorns, I had a picture in my imagination of a long cobbled road under construction, winding across the countryside. There was a labourer, kneeling down and placing stone after stone carefully alongside the next; perfectly positioned. I was reminded of God’s promise to us in Ezekiel that he will take the stoney, unresponsive and stubborn areas of our hearts and replace them with the flesh of his compassionate sacrifice. Thomas Merton writes in “Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings of the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century” [Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004]:
They (the monks) knew that they were helpless to do any good for others as long as they floundered about in the wreckage. But once they got a foothold on solid ground, things were different. Then they had not only the power but even the obligation to pull the whole world to safety after them.
There is something about solitude that allows God the space to be truly transformative in our lives. In a world that so often demands our full attention, solitude is increasingly difficult to find. The Desert Fathers chose physical solitude as their furnace; ours may look very different. A solitude from our normal pattern of life perhaps, a solitude from the influence of familiar voices? Either way, it is when we allow ourselves to be removed from what we have always known, voices that weaken in challenge as they become the familiar and comfortable echos of our own, that we so often begin to really change. Like in the picture, each time we allow those areas of our lives that have hardened through the wounding of life or have simply become unresponsive through familiarity, to be removed, they often form the very path upon which we are asked to walk upon.
One thing I’ve learned recently in my own life is how our firm foundation, our solid ground is forged from the transformation of our souls. Each stone marking a place of greater compassion, greater intimacy and above all a greater revelation of the love that exists in the one who has earned the place to be on his knees, fashioning the path for our feet.