by Jenny Gehman
*Reprinted with permission from Anabaptist World magazine, AnabaptistWorld.org.*
My husband and I (and a host of others) have lived in our home for 27 years. Let’s just say it was (over) due for a freshening up. Last year, we put our Christmas money toward the project and invited our friend Brenda to help. Brenda is an artist with an eye for interior design and a heart to create hospitable places and spaces.
Even though we know and love Brenda, it felt vulnerable to invite her into the areas of our home in need of change. I had to face things I didn’t really want to face.
Throughout the month we worked together, I fought the urge to hide and cover, coaxing myself to stay open and fully present to the process. I’m glad I did.
“This creates softness,” Brenda would repeatedly say as she recommended paint colors, advocated for plants and hung curtains. “Soft,” she’d say, “is more hospitable, not only to others but to the happenings of the Holy. You want to create softness wherever you can.” And so we did.
It’s interesting because not two days after phase one of Project Softness, I was drawn to a familiar verse of Scripture.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I was surprised to learn that “delight” does not mean to enjoy God (although I highly recommend doing so). It means — get this — to be soft.
Who knew? Here was an invitation to do internally in my heart what I was doing externally in my home. To create softness in order to be more hospitable to the Holy.
This word, “delight,” means to be soft, pliable, yielding, supple enough to bend freely or repeatedly.
Suddenly, I’m imagining the Potter and the clay and God making something new out of the old (again, like my home, see Jeremiah 18:1-6).
And also, suddenly, I’m seeing all my own hard edges, my rigidity, resistance and rebellion, those things I’d rather not face. God’s been trying to make something new out of the clay of me recently, and I’ve not been having it. I’ve been attached to the old. Rigid, resistant and rebelliously set in my ways.
To be rebellious is to not cooperate, to have strong feelings of disagreement with the One in authority. Check!
To be resistant is to not accept, to not want to welcome changes or new ideas. Check, check!
To be rigid is to be not able, to be stiff or unyielding, unable to be changed or persuaded. Check, check, check!
I sensed the Spirit saying, “Jenny, I’d like to make something new here. Work with me, daughter! Be soft in my hands and I will make you . . . and I will give you . . . but I can’t do either as long as you are rigid, resistant and rebellious.”
Back on the home front, hubby took a week off work to paint, and I spent time clearing the clutter and gathering the recommended resources. We set aside a workday to put the “new” in place.
When Brenda arrived at our door, she mentioned she had just come from another house where she was invited to give input on design. The owner of that house, however, was rigid, resistant and rebellious (to use my words). Every suggestion Brenda gave was met with rejection or objection. The owner’s ways were set in stone (like my heart), so there was nothing Brenda could do to effect a more favorable outcome.
“I like working with you,” Brenda said as she turned to me, “because you are so open to change.”
If only the same could be said of my heart!
As I write this, I am sitting in my “new” living room. It is fresh, airy and peaceful. I feel welcomed and safe, as if I’m gently falling open. My hard edges soften.
I am putty in the Potter’s hands. Delighting, I yield to divine ways and wisdom.
“A new heart I will give you,” God says, holding the clay of me, “and a new spirit I will put within you; I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 Amplified).
In other words, God will create softness.
My response is a simple song.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.
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