February 9, 2013

Trusting God when hearts fail

One year ago, I was put on medication to slow my heart rate. The heart clinic found that one chamber was enlarged, caused by a leaky valve. Was this unchanged from the effects of two childhood bouts with rheumatic fever? Or a new thing brought on by aging or other factors? Either way, my heart began acting up and put me in the hospital three times for cardio-version, a scary experience involving electricity and paddles. 

During that time, and even before then, the following verse became a favorite:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Now my heart is strongly beating. My blood pressure is 114/50 and I only need to watch my salt intake to keep things the way they should be. Even with good health, I often say this verse in gratitude to the God who is the strength of my heart.

Today’s devotional writer applies this verse to a completely different situation; the loneliness of Jesus’ mother, Mary. He mentions how the day comes for every mother to let go of her child, to make room for others in her son’s or daughter’s heart. Two of my children were married last year, but I’ve never considered this the “loss” of a son and daughter, but a “gain” of a daughter and son-in-law. Nevertheless, they give themselves and much of their time and energy to their spouses. A letting-go is important so they might establish their own homes and deepen their new relationships.

The writer says that a mother’s loneliness is related to the depth of passion of her children. That is, the more deeply involved the children are with their new lives, the more she will feel alone and left behind. He says to multiply this ten thousand times considering the absorbing passion of the Son of God in His ministry and then understand the deep loneliness of Mary. 

I’m not sure this connection is valid, at least not for me. Aware of the problems caused by mothers who refuse to “let go” of their children, I’ve made deliberate effort and decisions to release them into the care of God, not when they married but much earlier than that. Who can control their adult children? Who has the right to dictate or demand their actions? Love means letting them live their own lives without interfering. 

Not only that, it has been important to learn the reality that God is the strength of my heart. I love my children and my spouse, but not even family can fill that biggest empty space. Family cannot take care of all my needs, emotional or otherwise. Only God can sit in that place. 

Today’s devotional also describes the loneliness of helplessness as Mary watched her Son live out God’s purpose for Him. The writer points out that she could not “blast… his slanderers when they said he had a devil and was mad” and was “utterly powerless to keep him silent when every word was ringing out his death-knell.” How must she have felt standing at the cross and seeing him “nailed there and hear the exceeding bitter cry he cried” and how could “any loneliness be worse than that?” 

I’m not sure what I would have felt in her place. I do know that love as a mother means learning to put my children in the hands of God. He is also their heavenly Father and the ruler of the universe. He can take care of them just as He takes care of me. He is not only the strength of my heart, but responsible for the ones that my heart loves deeply. Love does not demand that I have any say in their lives.

Mary may have been “the loneliest woman in the world” but I’m not sure of that she was nor that Jesus’ passion for His calling had anything to do with it if she was. Because God gives me grace to trust Him with my children, certainly Mary also knew that grace. She could watch and weep, but she could also trust and pray. Perhaps she could rejoicing even when her heart’s greatest joy faltered and then died because she knew that God was the strength of her heart and her portion forever.

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