The Sparrow and the Heart: The Heart (Part 1)

I have two symbols which reflect key elements of my theology. We have been dealing for weeks now with the first of these symbols: the Sparrow. The sparrow points me to the trustworthiness of God. It points me to the belief that I can trust God to provide for me because He loves me. He provides for the birds, and Jesus says I am better than a bird. So the sparrow reminds me of God’s loving provisions. The second symbol addresses those moments when I don’t seem to feel the provisions or the love of God. What do I do when it seems like God is no longer involved. The symbol of the Wounded Heart helps me address this subject.

The symbol itself comes from a letter which Flannery O’Connor wrote after the death of her father. She commented that she understood that her father’s death was part of God’s plan and that He indeed does all things for the good of those who love Him. Yet, in the midst of real pain she wrote: sometimes God’s grace feels like a bullet in the heart. It’s an expression that I know personally. My dad died tragically and suddenly a few years ago. I never had the chance to say goodbye and I miss him dearly. Yet I know that God’s grace is involved in this event somewhere…even if I don’t see it or understand it.

The Wounded Heart, then, (this heart with the bullet ripping through it), is the symbol which points me to the truth that God’s grace is found even in pain. I like to phrase it this way: When God causes the struggle, He will also give us grace in the struggle. That phrase I think best captures both the sovereignty of God over all things and His mercy and compassion in the midst of it.

In the coming weeks we will look particularly at how this theology played out in the life of Paul. We will focus on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” found in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Paul has much to teach us here and the wounded heart can be a balm in the midst of sorrow.

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