“Open my heart Lord”
When I am not spending my Sundays in that almost front pew over there cajoling and wrestling our 4 year old into semi-quiet submission, I spend my weekdays as an elementary art teacher, so I’m going to ask that you indulge me a bit here at the beginning as we talk a little…….
Dr. Seuss. Although I do get the chance to use Dr. Seuss in my art lessons frequently, I rarely get a chance to draw metaphors about life within his books with my 6 year old students! So, please, indulge me!
You may be familiar with this work, Green Eggs and Ham, the story of an unnamed main character who refuses to try this new dish offered by the very persistent Sam I Am. The main character comes up with seemingly every reason for refusal in the book to NOT try these eggs: not in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse. He is being asked to open his mouth, his taste buds, and his heart to something he is utterly convinced WILL NOT be good. And spoiler alert: at the end, the main character does open his mouth and his heart and surprisingly likes the new dish.
I’m sure we can all think of a green eggs-type of dish that we were closed off to at some point. Something that we ended up liking once we tried it. And, perhaps, if we prod ourselves a bit further, beyond food, something a bit deeper, we might even think of something that God was leading us to. A door that He was trying to open in our hearts, that we greeted with the same resistance with which the main character greeted that infamous green eggs and ham.
When we are resistant to God opening our hearts, we can also come up with some pretty great excuses. Like the main character, we have our own ways of saying, “God, you let me be.” If opening our heart to God is like opening a door, those excuses become the junk mail that piles up in front of the door. We’ve got to really work to shove and shove and shove to get all of that out of the way to make room for God.
The Bible is full of individuals who have a difficult time opening their hearts to God, and it’s just as complete with individuals who do open their hearts. On Sunday, we heard the story of the Prodigal Son, and depending on the point-of-view you want to take, the focus could be on the open heart of the father or the closed heart of the brother. In the reading that we just heard, Jonah flees from God. He takes the first ship away from Ninevah and heads to Tarshish. Not exactly a model for “Open my heart, Lord.” While this portion of the reading does not give an excuse for Jonah, later in the book of Jonah, we could guess that fear played a part in his reasons for closing his heart to God.
And yet, we have the luxury of being on the other side of the story. God actually provides this large fish to swallow Jonah, giving him PLENTY of time for reflection. And plenty of time, with God’s help, to get rid of all of that junk blocking the door to his heart. For Jonah, he was provided 3 days of solitude and reflection inside that mighty fish. God provides us with 40 days for reflection during this season of Lent. How can we use it to reflect and pray on that clutter that is getting in the way of opening our hearts to God’s message for us?
God left Jonah with no excuses. In the end of our reading, we can imagine Jonah, lying on the sand, waves washing around him, his heart fully open to God’s calling. Much like the main character in Green Eggs and Ham, floating in a sea, surrounded with no other excuses, now open to trying this strange new dish. When we open our hearts, God uses us for mighty things.
At the start of this message, I mentioned that my husband and I have a 4 year old, and if you’ve seen us in church, then, surely, you’ve seen him! I want to close by sharing with you how open-my-heart-Lord related directly to our lives. Our son was adopted. While we try to keep the intimate details of his adoption story within our family so that he has the choice to share when he gets older, I’d like to share with you, maybe with some hesitation, that we almost did not open our hearts and listen to God’s whisper. There were so many excuses we came up with for why our adoption match would not be a good one, most of which centered around how geographically close his birth family was, and still is, to us. In fact, after initially talking with his birth family, we went 4 months without talking with them at all. And I was sure that all of the clutter and excuses were the reason why we wouldn’t have to open our hearts to the idea of being matched with them. But God is persistent. And we are blessed to have trusted in Him as we removed our excuses, tore away our clutter, and opened our hearts. As we piled the excuses up in front of the doorway of our hearts, convinced that there was no way that our match with Jayden’s birth family could turn out in a positive way, we couldn’t see what God had for us here on the other side, after we finally opened our hearts to Him and to the person who we would eventually call our son. In fact, much of that clutter and excuses seems so ridiculous now. We can’t imagine Jayden NOT being with us, and we can’t imagine not considering his birth family part of our family.
Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of what was probably a stinky fish reflecting on God and opening his heart. According to my calculations, we have 18 days left from now until Easter. Open my heart, Lord.