“I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
In reading this passage my first thought was about a hardened heart…or a calcified heart. A once healthy organ that now has such narrow passageways that life giving blood and oxygen are constricted in their movement. This constriction leads to inadequate oxygen in the muscles, in vital organs, throughout the whole body, and this leads to an inability to do much of anything. It as we all know, can lead to death. Having a hard heart is scary.
Of course the prophet Ezekiel was talking about a people, not a person. A people who were faced with great challenges, a people dispossessed of their homelands, a people afraid that all was lost. Like the body that was deprived of oxygen they struggled to cope with their present, they struggled to see that life was possible.
Two ways of looking at the heart. The actual physical heart that can be hardened through diet and lack of exercise. And the collective heard of the people that can be hardened through a circumstance. These are very different, and yet there is a connection.
The human heart responds well to good fuel (food), exercise (it is a muscle), and good friends (community). That gives us hope because most of us can start doing things today that will help our hearts to be stronger and healthier. We might think, then, that these activities are great for us individually. And they are…but the wonderful news is that they help also us as a people.
When we eat good food, especially locally grown fruits and vegetable, we are helping our environment as well.
When we exercise and go outside to do so, we are experiencing the great gift of creation. Studies even show that we reap physiological benefits from the great outdoors. Better even, grab a friend to share your experience, and this leads to…
When we cultivate friendships (and life in community) we find that our struggles are not all encompassing. We also discover that we have people around to help when life gets too difficult.
All of this leads to healthy hearts…and all are gifts that are available to each of us. You might then wonder about the words in the passage referring to following “laws and ordinances.” Don’t religious people just like to get hung up on telling others what do do? That can lead to some serious heart issues – spiritually! The reality of those statutes and ordinances is that they are centered on the care for one another, and for our world. It’s that simple. It’s that hard.
What might you do today to cared for your heart as well as for the heart of your community?