Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Homework and Hearts of Stone

My boy was asking me some questions about college this morning as we left for school. He's a high-schooler now, and although there's still plenty of time to make the big decisions, unfamiliarity breeds major contempt in his mind, so the wheels are starting to turn. (Translation: he's already starting to worry!)

Anyway, the gist of his questions had to do with do you have A days and B days, how many classes, how much homework.

After I explained the concept of the college schedule being measured in class hours, I tried to explain the difference between going to school to learn and going to school to make grades on assignments.

Poor fella - with a dad who's an engineer and a mom who jokingly calls myself a "recovering Pharisee" he inherited literalism and legalism in spades! Just tell him the rules so he can follow them, but don't be giving him vague goals! I tried to explain that the profs don't tell you to go home and do (fill in the blank) but you go home and do it because you better know the material by the end of the course. It's the difference between doing homework and studying. (A concept that schools today don't help the kids differentiate between, but that's another post for another day!) The difference between being outwardly focused (homework) and being inwardly focused (knowledge).

And isn't that the struggle of us all as we go through our lives? (Well, at least mine!) As our Ladies Bible Study continues to work our way through the Old Testament, sometimes it's like looking in a mirror. I would have made a great Israelite.

Prophet after prophet comes to them:

Amos warns them that "playing church" is useless, that God hates their religious feasts and assemblies, and that though they bring Him burnt offerings, grain offerings, and fellowship offerings, God will not accept them. (Amos 5:21-22) He scolds them for their complacency, for living the "good life", eating fancy food, using fine lotions, having their luxurious furniture and playing their musical instruments (Amos 6:1-6) as well as their disregard for and injustice to the poor. (Amos 1:6-8)

Through Jeremiah, God says that "Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense" (Jer. 3:10) He lists the sins they commit and says they then "come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My Name, and say, 'We are safe'. . . " (Jer. 7:9-10)

Joel tells them to "rend your hearts and not your garments" (Joel 2:13)

And to Ezekiel, God says the people are "saying to each other 'Come and hear the word of the Lord.' My people come to you as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain." (Ezekiel 33:30-31)

Ouch, my toes are hurting big time!

How easy it is to get on automatic pilot - to play church, to let our outward actions look like we have it all together while inside our hearts are not softened and changed.

Anyone else have the contentious family car rides to church and then you step out with the heavenly smile on your face? (Or is that just my family?!) Or critical thoughts toward that woman who had the nerve to wear THAT to church on Sunday? Toward those kids who really need to behave & whose parents ought to crack down on them? Or a judgmental attitude toward that sleazily-dressed girl working in the coffee shop with all her piercings and her weird hair as we stop to pick up our latte on the way to Bible Study?

Or is it just me?

Sometimes we just want to do the homework to pass the course. We don't really want to learn.

Forgive me, Lord, when I'm concerned more with deeds than desire, facade than faith, display than devotion.

But oh, thank you Lord for your grace - and your promise to remove the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) Change my heart and fill it with You.

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Anonymous said...

Would you please get off my toes???

P.S. No, it's not just your family.


Annette said...

Preach it, sistah! I can sooo relate to what you are saying. Having been a first born, a rule-follower to the T and legalistic to boot, I struggle with the outward as well. How many times have we had the family friendly fights on the way to church only to step out of the mini-van with plastic smiles? Too many to count!

Lisa writes... said...

Great post! Not deeds but desire--May my faith be a reality and not just theory!

Anonymous said...

Great post!! We all fall short, We are all a work in progress. Thats the key. WORK!! Yes?

Big Mama said...

Great post! Just a reminder of how we can get focused on the wrong thing.

Xandra said...

This is such an issue for me...I struggle with how I look to other people, and on the inside I am hard as a rock. Great reminder that I need to resolve those internal issues at the foot of the throne.


Anonymous said...

Great post! I struggle with the same things all the time.

Lysa TerKeurst said...

"How easy it is to get on automatic pilot - to play church, to let our outward actions look like we have it all together while inside our hearts are not softened and changed."

Great statement and worth chewing on! Thanks for the great post.

The Preacher's Wife said...

you rock, linda.

and in a soft-hearted kind of way. :)

This is one of my favorite scriptures of all time because it so much described what happened to me when God saved my soul and my marriage.

Beautiful post my friend!

Renee Swope said...

Ooh girl, this is good. It reminds me of that time when Jesus fussed at the Pharisees and said something like, "You study the scriptures because you think that in knowing them you will possess eternal life, but you don't even come to ME for life." How easy to want to look good on the outside and impress others with knowledge and church life. Yet, gives our hearts life is is when we draw near to Him and see others through His eyes, and let them see Him in ours.

Loved that song you left on my blog that Natalie Cole sang. What is the name of it?

You blessed me today!