I was pulling in the drive way at home after a long week at work, and in an overall bad mood. My husband and I had been tense around each other all week, and I’d already been alerted that one of the kids was in a bad mood. Yes, I have teenage girls, so it’s not too uncommon.
So I sat there, trying to come up with something else I needed to do before I walked in the door. If I could avoid for a little bit longer the conflict and the emotional energy that my family would require that evening, I would have done it. But I was out of options.
And I felt bad. Who feels that way about their own family? I’m pretty sure I’m a horrible wife, stepmom, and lots of other things. I started talking to God about it, knowing that without His help, I was bound to say something stupid and hurt someone this evening.
So I started asking God things like this…. “Please help me be patient.” “Please help me be sympathetic because middle school is rough.” “Please help me be gracious when issues stemming from the girls’ home with their mom comes into my home.” “Please remind me that my hubby has had a long day at work too.” “Please help me not to take it personally when someone doesn’t like my cooking.”
I’m praying all of this and just feeling more overwhelmed. I’m being awfully needy tonight…
I was voicing that frustration to the Lord, when He quieted my soul. I knew instantly that my frantic requests were heard, but God had other plans to help me. He didn’t have a checklist of all the attitudes I needed to exhibit with my family that Friday night. That’s not the kind of striving that He’s called me to. He’s called me to rest in Him, and lean into His strength to be the woman that He’s called me to be.
And then He changed my prayer to something much simpler. “God, please give me your heart for my family.” It was strange, but in that moment a calm came over me, and my chest started to feel lighter. It was as if a piece of His heart replaced that anxious part of my heart.
That evening still had teenage drama, food critics, and miscommunications with the hubs. And I didn’t handle everything like the godly saint I thought I was in that moment in the car. But I had a peace about my soul as I met those challenges trying to treat my family how the heart of God would treat them. Not how my own jealous, tired, bitter heart wanted to treat them.
And since that evening over Christmas break, the Lord has been weaving this idea into the fabric of my life. So much that all my goals for 2023 somehow center around it. What can I do to everyday rid my soul of the my sinful heart and replace it with the heart of God? I don’t want to just mimic the heart of God, and cover up my sinfulness, I want my character defects gone, and replaced with the beautiful attributes of my Savior.
And this got me thinking. What is the heart of God, really? It was pondering this question that lead me to Exodus 34:6-7.
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
I think this verse is fairly well known, but the context may not be. Let’s backup a little bit.
The Israelites had recently been freed from slavery in Egypt and were headed to the land that the Lord promised their forefathers hundreds of years prior. But they hadn’t just walked out. The Lord had done some pretty miraculous things to defeat Egypt and save their butts. At this point in the story, they are enroute to the promised land, camped out at the base of Mount Sianai, where God is giving instructions on what His covenant relationship with them would look like. (Which they screwed up almost instantly, but that’s another story for another day.)
While they are camped out there, Moses is called to go up on the mountain and meet with God. This is unheard of. The shear power of His holiness and majesty could not be handled by any man. But Exodus 34 says that God veiled Himself in a cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed His name. This is when that identifying statement is made.
Once I realized the context in which God is speaking through Moses, it hit me that this was God’s proclamation of His own being, His own heart. It’s the one moment when He is being physically present with a human in order to proclaim who He is. It’s what God wants us to most know about His heart.
So when I pray for the heart of God, it means that I am praying to be the things He is- compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in faithfulness, maintaining love, and forgiving sins. I don’t want to turn this into that dreaded checklist, but as I seek to let the Holy Spirit guide me, I can pray for guidance in these areas in order to better have these qualities.
And this is the journey that the Lord has brought me to for 2023. As I set goals for the new year, I ask myself, “How can I display the heart of God to __________, in the ___________situation, as I improve ____________?”
I hope you’ll join me as I plan to walk this journey somewhat transparently with you here. I want to dive deeper into exactly what it is that God said about Himself, what that means for my identity in Him, and how I can treat others the way that He would. We are going to spend a LOT of time in this Exodus 34 passage, so buckle up! My prayer is that as this year goes on, people slowly begin to see less of me and more of the heart of God.