Heart of Stone - Elisabeth Klein
Question (from Facebook community): “I am struggling with bitterness, and as much as I want to stay tender, I have a hard time not shutting down completely. How do I keep my heart soft?” 

Yeah, how does one do this? During the months leading up to, during and since my divorce, I’ve been lauded for the work I did on my marriage. Except for one teeny, tiny thing: my cold, hard heart.  

Now, I believe there’s a difference between the hard-hearted person who you can tell has given up or is just plain mean or is saying one thing and doing another, and what I was suffering from. I was doing every single thing (and then some) that I was counseled to do to put our marriage back together but my heart wasn’t following suit, no matter what I tried. 

So, here is what I learned from that season. I couldn’t make my heart feel something it didn’t feel, especially when the feeling I was supposed to be feeling was opposite to what I was really feeling. 

I was done. I wanted out. I wanted it to be over. I was tired of the constant attacks, the constant pain, the constant second-guessing. There is a slight chance I was hovering on a nervous breakdown for a couple years there, it was just that awful.  

And yet. And yet I was being told that I should want reconciliation and my heart needed to be tender.  

So though to be honest, I need to admit, that I don’t think I ever fully came to a place of a completely softened heart, here are some things I tried to get myself there. 

First, I kept doing what I was being asked to do. Every counseling assignment, every mentors’ idea, every book suggestion, I did it. I knew that if it all ended, I wanted to be able to look back on that time in my life and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had done more than my part. 

Second, I prayed for my heart to soften. I outright told God that I was closed off and only he could open me back up. And I had my closest friends praying for this too. Sometimes I would find myself praying with my spiritual fingers crossed behind my back. “Lord, change my heart,” but what I was really thinking was “NOO!!”. So, I enlisted others to pray for me when I couldn’t pray it for myself. 

Third, I prayed for my spouse. I didn’t want to, but I did. In fact, I still do. I still pray for healing, for his relationship with our kids, for a blessing to fall over his life.  

Four, I did a few forgiveness activities, guided by my mentor. I worked through everything I needed to ask for forgiveness for regarding my marriage, and I made a list of all I needed to forgive, and literally laid it at the foot of the cross in a local chapel.  

Five, I did a little exercise.  I’m really into rituals and benchmarks.  I found a rock and wrote my hard heart on one side, and Ezekiel 36:26 on the other (“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” {NLT}). 

I walked out to the pond attached to my yard at the time and lifted the rock up to the sky. I told God that I wasn’t quite ready to get rid of my cold heart but that this was my attempt to show my willingness to try. I hiked my arm back and threw it as far as it could. I then walked back inside my house and went on with my life. Later that day I was walking through my living room and thinking some mean thought and I looked out the window over the pond and said outloud, “My hard heart is out there now.” And when a not-so-great thought came my way, I’d try to remember to take it captive for Christ and say a prayer instead. 

Did it work? Did my heart magically soften and warm up? It worked some. My heart softened and warmed up some. It also occurred to me later, that in my situation, I believe God was protecting me. He knew nothing was going to change (in fact, things got worse) and I think he was allowing me to stay in that place. And yet, I also firmly believe he needed to see me surrender and be willing to do anything he asked of me; and to that I can say, that yes, I got to that place. Hearts can change. But only with his help.

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.