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Knowing by Heart

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (The Message)

“That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master.” God’s Decree.

“This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree.

This year, on the First Sunday of Lent, we heard the story of how God entered into a sacred covenant with us, God’s Beloved Ones, and set a rainbow in the clouds to remind us of this deep Truth. At the start of this last week of Lent before the epic events of Holy Week begin, we heard from Jeremiah yet another reminder of a new, even deeper, covenant. And this after we flagrantly and repeatedly broke the first. God clearly is not a quid pro quo, tit-for-tat kind of God. Thankfully. And what a powerful message to receive to sustain us through Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday so that we can come to celebrate the Resurrection with full hearts and joyful souls!

I’ve been thinking about what it means that God will put God’s law within us, write it on our hearts. A story from my days as a parent of youngsters helps me to understand.

My nature is to trust others until they give me reason not to. I have suffered for this innumerable times over the years, yet I’ve not let go of it. As my kids were growing more and more independent, not letting me hold their hands anymore, this ability to trust became more and more difficult for me, not because they weren’t trustworthy, but because I was afraid they’d get hurt somehow as a result of their decisions. Well, duh! Of course they would! Just as I have. I was always intentional about telling them, as they’d leave the house, that I trusted them to be careful and be home by the appointed time. And that I loved them. I’m happy to report that they very seldom gave me any reason to mistrust them. They almost always called if they realized they’d be late but were on their way home, or to ask if they could change their plans. Even now, at 33 and 31, they text me (and each other) when they’re leaving on a trip and when they get home safely – and they live in Seattle and the UK! Both have told me that it was because I trusted them from the beginning and gave them freedom to do the right thing – or not – that enabled them to make good choices. They “obeyed” out of love rather than fear. They learned by heart the difference between right and wrong.

Now I don’t tell that story to extol my parental skills – far from it. I was flying by the seat of my pants just as every other parent does! It turns out that my nature, my instincts were successful this time, that’s all. And by the grace of God, no doubt. I tell that story to illustrate how God wants to be our God, our Mom or Dad, who loves us and trusts us to let that love and trust be our guides. God has put God’s very self within us from our very beginning, watched us wander away from who we really are as God’s Beloved Ones, and welcomed us back with open arms when we finally come to our senses. And continues to trust us in spite of it all. Each time we return, we’ve learned a little something more about who we are in God and who God is in us. God continues to write on our hearts with every experience, every relationship, every joy, every sorrow, every success, every failure, as long as we keep our hearts open. And what beautiful poetry and prose God has written there! May we savor every word and come to know them deeply – by heart.

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Jo Ann Staebler
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Jo Ann Staebler

Wonderful! Thank you, friend.