Lent, Week 3: "behold" and the heart of stone

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing  by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, "Woman behold thy son!"

Then saith he to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!"  And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.  John 19:25-27, KJV


Why behold?

What is the value of being with pain?

Why not just fix it, or, if we can't fix it, why not just get away from it as fast as we can?

Why stay with suffering?

I think the main value is this:  suffering is what God uses to break our hearts of stone.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

With a stony heart, we are all about control, all about power, all about staying at the top where people can admire and appreciate us.

The heart of stone is all about the Law, knowing every covenant and codicil and keeping it correctly.

A heart of stone says that I know how to do this all by myself.  I am the one who gets to be in charge.  I know best.  I can do best.

The heart of stone needs no one, no help, no how.

But a heart a flesh is a different story.

A heart of flesh feels the pain, knows the need, reaches out for help.

With a heart of flesh, I'm open to Love in my own life.  

I don't keep saying, "I'm fine, God, I don't need you."  

Instead, I say, "Please.  Help."

A heart of flesh is the only kind of heart that receives grace.

And a heart of flesh is the only kind of heart that can grow, past stoniness, into a heart that cares deeply for others.

As long as we maintain our heart of stone, we'll always get upset with others when they don't get better, get over it, get on with life.

But a heart of flesh pulses with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness.  

As the Holy Spirit so gifts our fragile hearts, so we begin to gift the hearts of others.


“When God says he will change your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, that sounds  beautiful but if instead of saying a heart of flesh, you say a vulnerable heart, that sounds less exciting.  And if you want to define vulnerability as the capacity of being hurt. . .  So I’ll change your heart of stone, which is protective, to a heart where you are is capable of being hurt, that sounds less exciting.  But that’s the reality.  If really we start being concerned about people and loving people, we will be hurt.  So growth then, means how to grow through being hurt.”  Jean Vanier

“Not to accept suffering as a normal inevitable part of being alive seems like a big mistake . . . There is a sense in which that If I will trust that what comes to me in my life is for me and not against me . . . what I find is that it breaks my idols, that it breaks my isolation, it challenges my sense of independence.  It does all kinds of things that I would not willingly do, that are for me.”  Barbara Bradford Taylor

“Love is hard, love is sacrifice . . . Love is trouble.”  Brene Brown

“The only way to get out of it is to get into it.  The only way to deal with the darkness . . . is to go deeper into it, until you start to see a little bit of light.”  Parker Palmer

“The conversation always has to begin with pain.  What pain have you got, and where does the pain come from? . . . I think there is a huge bias in the Bible about taking pain as the primary language of human possibility.”  Walter Brueggemann

“Grieving with another human being is one of the most holy places to be.”  Glennon Doyle Melton

"Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate.  Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to places where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.  But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering.  What we desire more is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it."  Henri Nouwen


Suffering breaks our heart of stone.

And that breaking is a good thing for us, and also for others.  

Staying with suffering, being broken, connects us deeply to ourselves, to one another, and to Jesus.

Staying fulfills the great prayer of Jesus for us, that we would be One.  (John 17)

And so we stay and we BEHOLD.

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