Transforming the Heart

In these last turbulent weeks I have been strengthened by this passage from Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  To be human is to have a heart of stone.  We fight, do violence, lie, destroy and hate, but by grace we are capable of having an expansive heart, a heart of flesh. 

In the current situation we know what a heart of flesh can do.  We pray for the Ukrainian people, one third of the population having left the country; all the eastern Europeans who are helping them, taking them into their homes; all the aid workers who are risking life in these war circumstances; and the soldiers imperiling their lives.  We can individually send financial support to help those groups, and our country is sending military supplies to fight the war and imposing economic sanctions.  These are the works of an expansive heart even though we know that by our military support we are complicit in war.  In war you have to destroy and even hate.  All of this hate, which follows from war, hurts us, individually and corporately.  Our hating Putin and the Russians who support him continues greater hatred in the human community.  On Good Friday we can draw hope from the memory of this day but we are caught between two commands: to love our neighbors and to forgive our enemies. 

If we could imagine that after the fighting stops we might as a world community have a better sense that war is unacceptable in the human community, then there would be some good buried in this horror.  How do we keep that hope and imagination alive?  Psychology tells us that we can’t change people’s minds without changing their hearts.  How do we change the heart, ours and others’? How do we open the heart to greater compassion for ourselves and for others?  How do we forgive even Putin and the Russians who have supported him?

While I have always thought of imagination as an intellectual capacity, a friend said she thought imagination was born in the heart.  Might imagination be the third way through to forgiveness and the diminishment of hate?  We have to imagine that there is good buried in these invaders.  Forgiveness and removal of hatred are the work of a heart of flesh and the expansion of the heart is possible through meditation; the heart is opened to the mystical hope of the goodness in everyone and our capacity to forgive is strengthened.  The challenge is that, when killing ceases, we must forgive them and ask God to forgive both them and us.

It is in the heart of flesh that not only compassion is born for those who suffer, but also the capacity to not hate and to forgive.  The challenge is to pray for Putin and all those who support the war.  This is not possible without grace.  However, if grace is given, it fosters not only the capacity to love your neighbor, no exceptions, but it may also provide a third way through conflict and violence.  Through imagination, we may learn for the millionth time that war is not the answer. 

My sense is that through meditation our hearts are expanded and we become more human, less willing to hate, more willing to forgive, more compassionate toward those who suffer great injustices.  We become more able to do what Jesus did.  On the cross he petitioned God to forgive his enemies, since they do not know what they do.  The invaders of Ukraine have not only killed, and destroyed cities, they have increased hate in the human community.  While following Jesus’ Good Friday example we can begin to yoke mercy and justice by praying that hearts of stone be transformed.  God can forgive them and us as this war rages on.  

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Anita Davidson
Anita Davidson
1 month ago

Thank you for this wonderful and challenging Good Friday message, Dana!

Carlos Exposito
Carlos Exposito
1 month ago

A heart of flesh is what we all desperately need. Thank you for such a deep message, Dana. God bless you!

Sarah Hedrick
Sarah Hedrick
1 month ago

Thank you Dana…

Sarah Hedrick
Sarah Hedrick
1 month ago

Your blog and message is so needed this morning…praying for expansive hearts and grace filled prayers fueled by our divinely inspired imagination💗

Pamela M
Pamela M
1 month ago

Thank you for this message. It really resonated with me. Today I offered prayers for the Russian soldiers as well. I might even pray for Putin today.

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