Changing Hearts and Airplanes
Of all the miracles God has performed in my life, the one that still leaves me amazed is the way in which He changed my own heart.
The first scripture I memorized in a desperate season of crying out for healing was:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, New King James Version)
I was so far from clean and steadfast. My eyes had been darkened in my own selfish pursuit to get what I wanted out of life and love. I manipulated my way through life, and I surely felt very little compassion for other people. I never dreamed how God could plant the truth of His word so deeply.
Yesterday my husband and I were taking a late flight into Phoenix, Arizona. We do not fly often because of four children and a tight budget, so this particular trip was a rare treat for us. As we flew over beautiful little clusters of lighted cities and towns, on the opposite side of the country from which we live, we got carried away in a sense of our own smallness. I looked over at my husband, Derek, and said:
“Somewhere down there in that little town, there is a trailer park. And in one of those trailers there is a little 6-year-old girl, asleep on her bed in just a pull-up, with her curly blonde hair all over the place. And God loves her just as much as he loves me and you.”
We pondered this simple and yet sobering thought; that God knows all the hairs on her head too, and all of the thoughts in her mind and hopes in her heart - He loves her just as much as He loves each one of us. All of us. And how this is just one of the towns, in just one of the states, in just one of the countries, on just one of the planets, in just one galaxy. Wow.
Just when we’re tempted to feel as insignificant as a piece of bird poop, we can do exactly the opposite: zoom in. A person, their anatomy, cells, the amazing complexities of our DNA, which we have only begun to understand. There are animals at the bottom of the ocean we haven’t even discovered yet, all of which also have meticulous DNA patterns encoded into their own cells. The Bible tells us that God knows how many hairs are on each of our heads. What in the world? God, who are you? Or as the psalmist penned:
“O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions. This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great…. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:24-25, 33, NKJV)
A little earlier in the flight I had looked out the window and saw another airplane taking off a ways below us. Immediately my heart was flooded with compassion for the people on board. I began innately praying for them as I pictured the elderly people, the children, and all the others on board. A vulnerable group of humans in the air, just like us. It is joyful and reverent to be flooded with real care and concern for people, and this is not who I was, nor who I was shaping up to be.
Fifteen years ago, my heart was in no condition to feel such wonder and compassion. I was stuck in the numb funk of my own selfishness. I never use to think of other people this way. Now, I notice other people and their needs all the time.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NKJV)
This morning at our hotel breakfast I watch a young businesswoman in her 20’s sit down alone and order her breakfast. Compassion. My heart nearly burst thinking how precious she was, and how her parents are probably so proud of her success. About how she probably has to pinch herself sometimes over the fact that she gets to travel for work and stay at nice hotels. And how she might have to work up her confidence to sound professional and grown-up in meetings, or even as she orders her breakfast. Maybe I have her all wrong, maybe she’s not thinking about any of those things. But either way, that young woman in her 20’s sitting across the dining room this morning had my heart. If I were the same person I was 15 years ago, my only interest in this woman would have been to secretly look her up and down in contempt, and compare my own body and clothes to hers. I would have either felt inferior and jealous, or superior and proud of myself.
Thank you, Jesus, for changing this heart. You are so good to remind me, late at night on an airplane, how far we have come together, and how you go so far above and beyond what we ask you for.
The Bible. King James Version. Bible Gateway, version 42, Bible Gateway / Zondervan, 2016.