Maybe it’s because of Resurrection week. Maybe it’s because of the intensity of my past week. Maybe it’s because someone visiting here needs to find some hope from it: the word rend.
Whatever the reason, rend is on my heart today. Of course I had to look it up, because I love looking up words. The dictionary lists several meanings, but my favorites are: to split or tear apart or in pieces by violence; to tear (the hair or clothing) as a sign of anger, grief, or despair; to lacerate mentally or emotionally; to pierce with sound.
Kinda strange to say I have an affinity for such a word, until perhaps you consider where it occurs in Joel 2:12-13: Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Folks often ask me if I question God for allowing me to suffer through abuse and PMDs, and even my current battles with anxiety and depression. I’m sure I have, but currently I am in a place where I couldn’t be more grateful for them. The pain shapes me and molds me and makes me who I am. The pain rends my heart, and then I make the choice to allow God to use the contents that hemorrhage out of it. And no doubt, I have a lot more rending left to do.
Don’t you love the imagery God chooses in the words of Joel: “Rend your heart and not your garments.” The Israelites were big on ripping up their clothes when they were in mourning. I wouldn’t mind tearing up my Target duds in His name, but God’s not interested in that.
I believe God wants us to tear up, lacerate, dig out and splay open our hearts. He wants us to rend our hearts and run to Him with them, hemorrhaging grief spilling over the tops of our cupped, weakened and trembling hands. When we do that, God gets past the grubby, scratchy layers of wool, denim and down-filled pouf jackets and into the deepest parts of us . . .
. . . the parts of our hearts that long to feel His compassion . . .
. . . the parts of our hearts that thirst for His abounding love . . .
. . . the parts of our hearts that ache to feel Him wrap us in grace and mercy.
The last part of Joel 2:13 is really cool: “he relents from sending calamity.” God doesn’t bring calamity on us on purpose. In it’s pitiful depravity, humanity does that to itself. But sometimes I wonder–I just wonder and I may be completely theologically off–if we don’t rend our hearts and bring them to Him on our own, He chooses not to prevent calamity, and He uses it to rend our hearts instead. Then the choice becomes ours: to run to Him breathlessly and allow Him to sew us back up with His grace and compassion; or, to run the opposite direction and crouch on the steet corners and in the back alleyways of life, licking our gaping lacerations.
Similarly, I love the last meaning of rend from the dictionary: to pierce with sound. Oh how God uses music to pierce my weary heart, the notes penned by musicians following hard after Him. Chords of praise march with forte into the back closets of my heart . . . closets full of generations of moth-ball covered and moth-tattered garments that need to be pitched.
What are the moth-ball-covered clothes in the back of your heart’s closet? And, how deeply are you willing to tear those closets apart?
Here’s a song that talks about joy that comes when we rend our hearts and hand them to Him. It’s a good one for Resurrection week, too: