At 8:30 this morning, after I dropped our daughter off at school, I sat in the waiting room of the local dentist. Nothing serious, just one tooth needing a small reparation. I was the first and only person and, while allowing the assistant to prepare the rooms and the dentist to arrive, I took my mobile phone out of my purse. Not to call anyone, but to spend a few minutes with the Lord. “On your phone?” Yes, because it has a wonderful Bible Study app, which includes a reader for other books as well. I opened Bill Freeman’s The Supplied Life, and read the meditation for March 13:
Who do we live to? Our orientation in our fallen nature is to live to ourselves—to our own reasoning mind, to our feelings, to our reactions, to our own analysis of ourselves. In the past the self has been our point of reference. When the self is our point of reference, we really do not know ourselves as we should in God’s light. I fact, according to the Scriptures, apart from Him we are prone to being deceived about ourselves. The self cannot accurately know the self. No one really knows himself without God’s light. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Who can know their own heart properly? We may think we are fine, when we are totally off. Or we may think we are off, when we are fine. Brothers and sisters, we are unable to know our hearts. God says that our hearts are desperately sick, whether or not we agree with His diagnosis. It is God who asks the question, “Who can understand the heart?” In Jeremiah 17:10 the Lord answers His own question. It is the Lord who knows and searches our hearts. He is even identified by a compound title in Greek—“The Heart-Knower” (Acts 1:24; 15:8). Thus, to know ourselves we must first come to know God. We may think we know ourselves by introspection or by analyzing our own heart. We may imagine that we know ourselves rightly. But apart from being in fellowship with the Heart-Knower, we are prone to deception.
As I read, joy and wonder filled my heart. Not just because it was a beautiful meditation, but also because I’ve lived it. I know it’s true. Moreover, I’ve written about it in Destination Italy. Here’s an excerpt from “Chapter Seventeen. The Desert:”
In the period after my baptism, I felt myself slip out of the oasis of joy and gratitude and gradually wander off into an area run dry with dejection and listlessness. I didn’t want to go there, but I was unable to stop myself. Anger and irritation consumed me. At the same time, I felt criticized and judged. I didn’t understand what was happening. Was it because I would never carry a baby? Were old emotional wounds that cried out for healing luring me into the wilderness? Did bitterness or pride clot the umbilical cord that connected me to the fountain of God’s love? Or was it all simply the result of hormonal changes? I felt so tired, so lonely. I prayed to God. I begged to understand, so that I could do something about it. Once, I thought God was saying to me through Psalm 147 that I had to sing for him to get out of the blues, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting…He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” But I found it difficult to sing when feeling down. Instead, I was looking inside of me, soul searching, digging for possible causes of my depression. We had discovered Christian satellite TV and watched many programs. I was so thirsty for a solution to my problem that I clung to the words of television preachers, waiting for the magical formula that would bring water to my desert. I tried out every piece of advice, prayed every prayer for deliverance, and attempted to chase away every evil spirit. I made a list of all people I might need to forgive and I asked forgiveness for all possible sins I had committed in the past and for those which I might still be guilty of in the present. I read my Bible daily and declared every verse that spoke about love, peace, and joy in my life. At the end, I still felt barren, weary, and useless. And at fault. Maybe that was the worst feeling; I was to blame for not being a joyful, grateful, tenderhearted Christian. I knew God was with me, but I didn’t sense him. I knew Jan loved me, but I didn’t feel it. I was well aware that, at times, I was unbearable. While Jan was busy serving and developing his spiritual gifts–praying for healing and encouraging people– in the Perugia church, I was struggling with myself and was often downright blunt and bitchy. Jan tried to understand me and he said he loved me anyway, but it wasn’t always easy. The more interior turmoil I experienced, the more I shut down, making it all the more difficult for Jan to reach out to me. At times, we had arguments about the lack of affection I displayed towards him, making me feel like an even greater failure.
One Sunday morning in December, I was particularly down. Half an hour before we were to go to church, we ended up reproaching one another, using hurtful words. As always when we fought, I burst out crying in frustration and, in no time, my eyes were red and my head was throbbing. “You go to church alone! I won’t go with you!” I growled at Jan. “Very well!” he snapped back. He put on his jacket, took his Bible, and went outside without further speaking to me. I heard him walk down the stairs, start the Land Rover, and drive away, leaving me by myself in a heavy silence. As I was drowning in self-pity and feeling utterly lonely, my silent sobbing quickly changed into loud crying. “Jesus, please help me, pleeeaaase!” Although I didn’t feel the slightest sliver of divine presence, I just knew that he was my only hope to get out of the wilderness. Tired of introspection, I reached out to him.
Although I never practiced as a psychologist, the master’s degree in this area probably had given me an “introspection reflex” whenever I felt bad. It didn’t help me at all. Only when I surrendered to the Heart-Knower and let Him search my heart, a real and lasting transformation could begin.
Later, when I sat in the dentist’s chair, I was still delighting in His wonderful ways. The spotlight above my head allowed the dentist to look inside my mouth and fill a hole in some tooth’s enamel. But a divine light from heaven allows my Lord to search my heart and fill my soul.