Last month I found I had the news on all the time, praying with the rest of Austin for God to intervene and stop the terror of the random bombings. One bomb hit close to where our CORE youth, including my two children, were playing basketball and just feet away from a family in our body. In our home and likely yours, we had times that week when we had to really push back together with our kids against the fear that rose up of just walking in the neighborhood. If you are a parent like me, the fear of losing your child to violence is eclipsed only by the fear that the baby you rocked and nursed could one day have a pain so deep that they would take their own life and even the life of another. Our hearts ache for all the families impacted and we pray even now for God to pour out fresh mercy and grace every day for them as they grieve and heal and find out how to live lives that are forever changed by this tragedy.
As I comforted my daughter Brookie, who had been near enough to hear the bomb, I recalled one of my most painful memories at her age. It was a family spaghetti dinner when I was just turning 14 years old and my brother was just turning 17. His bags were packed by the front door and we were saying goodbye as he was setting off into the world. It wasn’t a happy send-off. He and my dad had been in conflict for my whole life and I never could reconcile the tension my heart was always in. I loved and understood my dad, and I loved and understood Danny. I had spent my whole life trying to be the glue, but here I was choking on my spaghetti as the tears flowed down my face. I wasn’t enough. I failed. I couldn’t keep the family together. We were not a whole family without him and the pain for us all was crushing.
God reconciled my family many years later but I didn’t know that a fear had set in deeply in my heart until I had my own son, Baylor. Would he leave like my brother? Would I go through the pain my parents went through or worse yet, would Baylor go through the pain my brother went through? When Baylor hit middle school I was gripped with fear as he tested boundaries and his $1 offenses elicited $20 reactions out of me. And I knew it too… but I couldn’t just reason away the fear and I couldn’t even pray it away. Prayer seemed to only hold it at bay. Until one night sitting at the kitchen island after our Hope Community had left and just one friend lingered. As she just listened and let me talk it through I finally could see that I believed the lie that “I am solely responsible for the choices my kids make.” What a burden to carry as a parent. I remember repenting of control that night and asking God to reveal to my heart that he loved Baylor more than I did and that I could trust HIM with Baylor. He did it. Something significant shifted in my heart even though God didn’t answer all the whys of the past nor promise a pain-free future. He did promise that like the manna in the wilderness, he would give me fresh grace and fresh mercy just in time for whatever I might face ahead. Authentic community had brought healing to that paralyzed part of my heart and helped me to begin to live out of love instead of fear.
Ezekiel 36:26 heralds the promise from God that He is in the business of taking out the stony paralyzed places in our hearts and replacing them with hearts of flesh, hearts that beat with love in sync with his heart. When He put His Spirit within us he begins the work of going after every stony place that has been paralyzed by fear and pain and rebellion, replacing it with a heart of flesh. “Being Hope” is going out with a heart of flesh into the city and wherever we encounter fear and inviting the Spirit of God to touch stony hearts.
Last week Dave and I stood in the driveway picking kids up from a friends house joking around with the dad who had just come from the gym. He was trying to work out hard enough to reduce his stress, he said. Then he got really serious and described that he was really struggling with anxiety and facing some serious trials. We started digging around his heart with him looking for where the lie was and invited him to let Jesus replace the lie with His truth that He is good and He is the provider. Right there in the driveway, in the city. The next day we got a text that he had received a huge miracle sized provision that day, and a heart of flesh.
Real transformation happens in vulnerable community where we give each other the courage to let God do heart surgery on us. Let’s press deeply into our HoCo’s this week and deeply into worship, and God’s Word and ministry time on Sunday and then let’s take big risks to be HOPE in the City.
By Dea Bresemann