Paths of the heart
by Christine Berglund
It is not in mankind to direct his steps. However, our steps can be directed by God, if we will give him the reins. It is not so easy with the paths in our hearts.
At a recent visit to my stepmother’s bedside, where she was waiting on her own next step into eternity, my heart led me on an unwanted path. I remembered some very troubling childhood events, one after another, as if I were replaying the disturbing movie in fast-forward.
Keep in mind, before judging me on my refusal to let go of the past, that it was my own choice. I spent days sitting at the bedside of a woman who was not always very nice to me. I have truly forgiven her, although she had never asked for this forgiveness.
Sadly, forgiving does not always entail forgetting. I tried, and earnestly prayed, that the flood of memories would cease, but they kept rolling down like so much wreckage in a horrible catastrophe.
When I opened my Bible to read some Psalms for her, they seemed full of David’s cries to the Lord for retribution for the atrocities committed on him by his enemies. Even the Scriptures were pushing my heart down this path!
My voice lowered to a murmur on those parts, as I prayed that she would not understand what my heart was crying. I only wanted peace for her, to go and be with the God of forgiveness and be done with her suffering.
As I looked into the wrinkled, pain-wracked face of the most helpless of humanity, I did forgive each one of those awful acts as I encountered them on this path that my heart was taking me.
Despite my memory dragging me back to the hideous past, it cannot make me react to it in an un-Christ-like way. God has more power than that! These things had hurt deeply, almost fatally, as a teenager; but cannot reach me now that I am “in Christ.”
There are paths in my garden that lead to hidden areas that are neglected and ugly. Thorny plants, thick Bermuda grass, and burrs have all but choked out the plants that had been meant to grow there.
The gardener needs to go down those paths and clear out the weeds. Yesterday I pulled up some dying Cleomes, and now my arms are red-striped from the thorns. It had to be done. From the front of the bed, it looks no different. But it is good to know that the weeds are cleared out.
Is it this way with memories? I’m not sure. Why can I not clear them out once and for all? The heart is a strange place, and filled with all kinds of random things in addition to what we have put there intentionally.
One thing I do know, I put more plants in my garden than most people do, and closer together. Many times they crowd out the weeds because there is simply no room. The fact that these darker, thornier paths exist is not sufficient excuse to linger there in misery.
This visit proved to be the last time I saw her in this life. Those paths are still in my heart, as well as some really good things in my memory of her.
It is now time to re-fill my heart and mind with more of the goodness God has blessed me with.
“If there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NASB).
I will choose to walk in the light.