EXCAVATING MY HEART
by Eric Elder
When people ask me how I’m doing, I know they genuinely want to know–and I genuinely want to tell them. And overall, I’m doing good, really good. But I’m also not immune to something that I Imagine many of you have experienced too. Every once in a while, and especially in the last few months, I’ve found myself bumping into that thing called “loneliness.”
It’s not that I don’t have friends or family. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a deep and personal relationship with God. It’s just that sometimes, in the midst of walking out my life, I feel like I’m walking all alone.
I bumped into it again last week when a friend called with some heartbreaking news. As I tried to digest the words–and the possibility of facing yet another major loss–I realized I had not just bumped into loneliness; I was about to become engulfed in it.
I was walking through the grocery store when it happened, while picking out food for the week with my daughter. Suddenly I felt like I couldn’t take one more step. I could have taken one more step. I just felt like I couldn’t. I mentally scanned through my list of friends I could call or text so at least someone would know what was happening in case I melted down into a puddle right there in the frozen food section of Walmart.
But then my daughter came back with another item on our list, so I just kept walking. I kept checking things off my list. And for the next half hour, I battled my inner thoughts and emotions, trying to just focus on the next item on my list, and the next, until I finally made it to the checkout lane. I knew that this feeling would pass, if I could just keep taking one step at a time, as it has passed before. But I was so thankful when later that night I got home and was able to crash into my bed, letting sleep take over and do its work of restoring my heart and soul.
The next day I talked to a friend and shared what had happened to me. She, too, had bumped into that kind of loneliness and sometimes had been engulfed in it altogether as well. What she learned in that place, however, and what she shared with me so touched my heart that I wanted to share it with you. She said, “That loneliness is God’s excavation of the ground, of a place in someone’s heart, of a place that God is going to fill. But He’s purposely not filling it yet. He’s purposely leaving a space. And every time that feeling comes, He’s taking a scoop–sometimes a bulldozer-sized scoop–but He’s taking a scoop and making room in your heart.”
She continued, “And God wouldn’t do this if He wasn’t intending to fill it. When God’s trying to take us deeper with Him, when He makes a space, He will fill it. He’s intentionally not filling it because He’s making the right place. And I think, based on the goodness of who He is–the utter goodness of who He is–there is no other answer. I don’t think those are wasted moments. I think those are very real and very important moments.”
It makes me cry just to think about it–cry with thankfulness for a good, good God who wastes nothing in our lives if we’ll give it to Him.
Rather than feeling like life is trying to rip something out of me, I can now see clearly that God Himself is the One who is at work. God is doing a work in my heart, taking bigger and bigger scoops in order to increase the capacity for whatever it is that He wants to pour into those newly opened spaces.
I’m thankful for a new vision of what’s going on inside. I’m thankful for family and friends to whom I can reach out when I need someone else on the other end of the line. I’m thankful for a God who I KNOW is for me–and who I KNOW is for you–a God who really does want to work out all things for our good.
The next time I feel that loneliness come upon me, I have something new to try. I’m hopeful that I’m going to be able to truly say, “Father, thank You for taking another scoop. Thank You for digging deeper and deeper in my heart in order to take me deeper with You. Thank You for excavating my heart, for making space for more, and for increasing my capacity to love You and to love others in a way that goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. Thank You for always being FOR me and for holding those spaces open in my heart until the exact moment when You decide to fill them. Help me not to try to fill them with anything other than what You’re creating them for, because I want more than anything to be filled with all that You have for me. I trust You, and I trust Your goodness in this situation as well as in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
And the next time someone asks me how I’m doing, I can genuinely say once again, “Overall, I’m doing good, really good,” because I know that God’s got this, too.
P.S. St. Augustine once said, “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.” If you feel like your hands are too full to receive all that God has for you, I’d invite you to take three days away with Greg Potzer and myself in early December as we’re planning a three-day prayer retreat in the mountains of North Carolina. We’ll be hosting the event both online and in person, so whether you’re able to join us there or from wherever you are, we hope you’ll block out three days to take part in this “guided prayer retreat.” Our plan is to give you ideas for how to make your prayer life more effective, as well as give you time to put what you’re learning into practice. We’re not charging anything for the retreat, but we have booked some rooms and meals at The Cove, a beautiful conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and there will be a cost for the meals and lodging. The dates are December 7, 8 and 9, starting in the evening on the 7th and finishing up by noon on the 9th. If you’d like to join us in person, please let us know as soon as possible as we’ve reserved only 24 spots at the conference center where we’re holding the event, and we want to make sure we have a spot for you! Here’s a link to more details about the retreat, including an early-bird special on the lodging and meals that ends tomorrow, August 15! Click here to learn more.