Just moments after the thought came to mind, “I should put up my window”, but before I could act on it, a drink had been thrown through my open car window hitting me in the face and mouth.
I was able to safely pull over, but in my confusion and shock I found myself struggling to work out how to put my window up and lock the car. The shock had immobilised me. I soon followed after Bronwyn, who had bolted from the car in pursuit of the assailants. Through heated but fruitless questioning of those on the tram stop – the youth involved and random bystanders that chose to say and see nothing – we were left with no answers. I was in my own haze of questions; “will I have an allergic reaction to one of my many allergies, some sever?”. “What was in the drink/food substance that could make me sick?” I was freaking out and angry that someone could do something so stupid and disrespectful and dangerous. It ruined my day. Honestly, not just that one day.
I was left feeling violated, frustrated, angry and worried. We ended up at the doctors and had blood tests done. They all came back clear. I am thankful, especially for no allergic reactions.
That afternoon as I tried to calm overwhelming thoughts, it was then I started to sketch the image that inspired this work. Drawing calms me. The human figure emerged with a heart that is wrapped in chains. Choking it. The chains that bind us to the “normal” reactions in making our choices that are self-focused, that are in defense, that are a response to our own survival or the conditioning that we submit to. I’m sure the young guys that ran away from us were not thinking past, “how cool was that” as they fled from 2 angry women. Achievement unlocked. They were young, they were clowning around. At least I can say that now. And I giggle a little as I think of them running away…from us.
I thought about the bystanders and their silence too. And I thought about how they were responding to the conditioning of not seeing, not saying anything and not doing anything. This spoke the loudest in their silence. The conditioning to say nothing to their mates; “Hey don’t do that,” “that could cause an accident” is not the thing that always comes to mind first. I can’t say that’s just a youth thing when in reality the brain doesn’t develop this ability until the late 20’s, because I know much older adults like this too. Everyone else on the tram stop said nothing to these young people. What would the world look like if none of us lived in silent ignorance? I might be one of these people sometimes myself too. If I am completely honest, far too often!
I thought about my heart and my responses that day, over that week and then over my life. What hardens me? What do I need to work on more? I’m always working through the next thing. But now what’s the next thing? Clearly I had/have a heart issue.
Questions arose. What things harden each of us? What events have trapped us in our past and in some ways may still be trapped in? What’s yet to trap us? All of us can look back and see how far we have come because of God’s grace and healing from some of our stuff we made choices to do; or from the consequences of others actions towards us. There is still more healing, more learning to be done. But what are the lies and the traps the enemy keeps dragging you into? What are the default messages that snag you and harden you and strangle your heart in chains? Are they thoughts of being unloved, abandoned, abused, violence, divorce, singleness, anxiety, loss, another trip down the depression trail, fatherlessness, illness, harmful consequences of pornography, money problems, lust, jealousy? The list is exhaustive of the things that create the chains that bind us….
And then some of our responses to these chains that bind us can vary from fear, loneliness, guilt, envy, depression, blame, shame, aggression, judgement, no peace, no joy, unrelenting emptiness, and the lists go on here too.
There is only so long we can hide these from ourselves and even less from hiding our stuff from others. Hardness of heart is almost as easy to identify as it is to identify those who wear their heart on their sleeve.
This first heart was all I could think of that afternoon after getting home from the city. The heart was bound with chains, choking it and directing our actions. The flow of the solid chains from the heart to our head, influencing our thoughts and to the limbs in how we act out physically. This is representational of the conditioning that drives us to be selfish and self-focused in our actions and our reactions. It was a direct response to how I felt about the person who threw the drink, and those who said nothing. This continued into the following week, but as I looked at the sketch I thought about my heart, how it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t good enough. God was challenging my conditioning and how my heart was not to remain with chains bound tightly around it, that influence my actions and reactions. Yes I could be angry. Yes I was fearful, but to stay there was not His plan.
Should we walk blindly through our lives, in all our interactions through the lens of conditioning? That’s the way I was raised? That’s because I was always hurt by others?
So then the chained heart changed. It had to. The second heart shows some of the chains being broken. How can anyone breathe under so much constraint pressure the first heart is under? The chains can constrict life from us. But when our hope is in Jesus who meets us wherever we are, He doesn’t leave us there, and He is the strength that gets us through each day even in the mess. Especially in the mess. Jesus begins to break the chains forged in our conditioning that grows from our responses and perceptions of the “hand we were dealt”, or “what the world does to us”. Our human nature feeds this. Our sin. Our hardened hearts. And Jesus meets us and speaks to us in the mess. He calls us. He softens our hearts to hear him. The chains begin to change. Some break, some loosen more and more as we heal.
But there was a third image that developed as I processed the first two. Jesus can break our chains, but he can do far more than that too. He can transform our hearts. This image represents the transforming power of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” and Ezekiel 36: 26. “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.” The new heart explodes the old. We are free from the conditioning, of our gene pool, upbringing, choices we have made, or the consequences left from other’s choices towards us.
We are a new creation. God’s love does not change, but it will change us.
What does your heart look like?