Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Responsibility to Rend our Hearts

by Danetta Kellar

Rend your hearts, and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 
Joel 2:13

The ancient Jewish custom of rending, or tearing, one’s garments, is an outward demonstration of grief at the news of the death of a loved one. It is still practiced specifically as a symbol of the rending of the parent-child relationship in the face of the finality of death. 

The traditional requirement was that the tear for deceased parents must be over the heart. The rip in the apparel represented a torn heart. “Exposing the heart” in this way was an appropriate expression of deep grief.

Joel exhorts God’s people to rend not just the clothing over their hearts, but their very hearts, symbolizing their brokenness before God.

Some say we are experiencing the death of God in America today. Others declare God is not dead. The battle to silence Him in society rages on amidst the din of resistance and liberalism. Absolute truth has been exchanged for relativism and individualism. Human intellect, created and fashioned by Divine, has exalted itself above its Maker.

The spiritual parent-child relationship has been rent in two, the Father God in whom we trusted forgotten in the hearts of many. Some have known Him well, been rescued intimately and dramatically by Him. But now those same children are estranged by their own choices. 

Others have hardened their hearts to His teaching, desiring what they want when they want it, not willing to walk the patient road of perseverance and faith in difficulty. Others are just broken and bewildered, wondering where He is.

The picture of rending one’s garments is a dramatic illustration of extreme grief, sadness and anger. In anguish, the mourner shouts to God her confusion and disappointment, her loss and agony. This is no mild-mannered picture of politely contained sorrow. 

Whatever separates you and I from our Father God right now is not too messy, too ugly to be shouted before Him, poured forth with the gut-wrenching groans of one who does not know the way forward. I can bring Him my broken, torn heart today. I can lay before Him my unanswered questions, the struggles that lay me low in the early hours of the morning when I toss and turn with worry about the future. 

It is not the responsibility of our presidential candidates to mend our broken relationship with God. They cannot do it.

No government, no presidential candidate, no lobbyist, policeman, pastor, or civil rights activist can repair our relationship with God.

It is our responsibility, yours and mine. People of God, it is time to rend our hearts, not just our garments.

When we draw near to God, raw and real, we will find Him gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, relenting from sending the calamity we fear. 

Before I decide how to vote this November, I am making the decision to rend my heart. 

When we get alone with God He will show us our place in this tumultuous time in history, and we will know how to live in the midst of uncertainty. 

Each of us has a dynamic and unique role to play in the history of God's story in the world. How will we know if we do not ask the Author? How many of us are living an alternate story, missing our purpose?

What do you think would happen if each follower of Jesus took intentional time in the next month to get alone with God and rend his or her heart? If each one laid down his or her life and asked the simple question, What would you have me do, Lord?

I hope you will join this vital conversation.


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