Only a month into 2022, and I have a whole lot of reasons to be bitter. Bitterness is a sneaky form of hardening, for it is not the big, disappointing events that turn our hearts cold, but the little things. There is a quote that states,
“The best things in life are not things”
This plaque sits on the wall leading into my room. When I see this quote, I am always reminded that material things don’t matter, but more recently, I wonder…what are the best things? Practicing gratitude is one way to find out what best things keep me grounded. Today, I am grateful for: Spending days with my son, friends to share struggles and victories with, and the love and compassion from my husband. Remembering these things keep from a bitter root forming in my heart.
There are a lot of ways to respond to an event. This event may be notoriously boring, but a persons response determines their experience. For instance, the pandemic isn’t just one response, but a million little ones that continue to impact our decisions and routines. How will it effect us is up to what who we want to become as people.
An even that recently gave me reason to be bitter started with a drive to see that my Dad’s house was still in order while he was gone on vacation. The moment I walked in, the cold air hit me. At first, I figured it was supposed to be chillier than normal given they were gone on vacation, but as soon as I read ‘ERROR’ on the thermostat, my Dad received a troubling call. This was the beginning of an experience that God used to show me what can happen with the human heart as it would happen to a broken furnace. However, the root of the problem at my Dad’s was actually not the furnace itself.
After calling my Dad’s panicky voice tell me to go upstairs and downstairs, to the store and buy new batteries, to put batteries in all the thermostats, check the pipes, go in the garage and find a handheld heater (crank up the heat!!), the cold air inside of the house was not only beginning to freeze my face and hands, but my heart as well.
As a former teacher, I wanted to know the history of why heat was not producing, why 1 out of 3 thermostats read ERROR, and what about those pipes?? Were they cracked?
“Can you go up again?”
Only a week after experiencing a failed attempt to get the heat working, I found myself in the same cold, empty house as before. Yet, this time, an electrician arrived at the exact same time as I pulled up to the house. So many questions, and yet, this patient and understanding man was more than willing to give me a History lesson on pipes, furnaces and all the things that make go into making it work. Eventually, I found that the furnace was not the main problem, but all of the switches, gadgets and pipes that control the water temperature leading to the furnace were. A few turns of this pipe, and a flick of a switch, and the heater was on full force again. Yet, one question remained: What about the pipes??
Lastly, what the electrician shared about pipes sticks with me like frost on a window. He said no one can tell when pipes are cracked until after the heat stops working.
Bitterness works in our hearts this way! Our hearts may be cracked from the small things: A disappointing look from a spouse, a harsh criticism from a coworker, or an unexpected change in our schedules. In the end, bitterness not only hardens our hearts, but we become stubborn. In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet Jeremiah exemplifies that a hardened heart becomes stubborn:
But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; we will all follow the stubbornness of our evil hearts.’ ”Jeremiah 18:12
The good news is, God can soften our hearts! When we choose to live a life of gratitude, our bitter experiences, regardless of when they occurred, can melt like the warm sun melting snow in the Spring. In time, beauty emerges. Similarly, with a softened heart, a life of love and forgiveness blossoms. As the electrician left, I realized that my heart was beginning to form cracks. I thanked him for the History lesson, and said goodbye to not only the house, but bitterness as well.