Heart of Stone
“I will take the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
“I have stopped praying for him.” My friend, Trina said. She was not the first one who had told me this. Since I had been divorced for about six months several people had told me that they had stopped praying for my ex husband. I had not. I didn’t know how to stop praying for him, or even if I should.
I planned a personal retreat to the outside of Vancouver Island on the advice of one of my friends at Regent College. I was taking a class from Eugene Peterson called Ministry and Spirituality. At the end of the class we were required to write a paper on how we would keep our spirituality once we got into ministry somewhere. Beverly had told me that when she got to that place in the class she took a personal retreat to seek the Lord about it. That sounded like a great idea to me. I had never done such a thing. Many stories came out of that retreat. This is one of them.
I made reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast inn in Tofino. I wanted to be on the ocean, where the surf rolls in. My home on Drayton Harbor overlooks a shallow bay where the tide slips in and out twice a day, but I felt I wanted to be somewhere with surf.
On the second day of my stay as I went through some of the verses that I believed that they Lord had given to me as promises for my husband’s salvation. One of them was the verse above from Ezekiel. “I will take the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Later that day I walked on the beach, in the rain. The stones on the beach were wet and gray. But suddenly I walked past a small stone the color of red brick. I turned around and went back to it. It was shaped like a human heart.
“Oh, my,” I thought. “It’s a heart of stone.”
I picked up the cold, wet stone and put it in my pocket. I wrapped my fingers around it. As I held the stone it got warm.
I took the stone home with me and it became a tool for a kind of body prayer. I can’t really explain in words the significance of it. It was prayer without words. I kept the stone next to my bed. When I would wake up in the morning, or in the night, I would pick up the stone and lay it on my body—on my neck or my chest or my belly. The stone would be cold and shocked me when I put it on my warm skin. But as it lay there it would get warm. I would then turn it to feel the cold surface again. Somehow this ritual was working to release me from the one flesh relationship with my husband. I could not have articulated that then, but afterwards I realized that is what happened.
Resurrection morning fell several weeks after I had been praying with the stone. That morning when I picked up the stone and laid it at the base of my neck, it absolutely abhorred me! I could not stand the touch of it on my skin. I grabbed it off myself and set it on the side table.
“That’s it,” I thought. “I am through praying for him.” I knew it.
A couple of hours later I went to the sunrise service for resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo, a beach on the spit near where I live. Several of the community churches got together every year to reenact the resurrection of Jesus. A friend of mine from Regent was there with her new born son, Blaine. I had been with her when Blaine was born—another amazing time for another story perhaps. Sharon asked me if I would like to hold the baby, Blaine. Of course, I did.
I cuddled him close to my neck. I could feel him breathing. Then I sensed his little heart beating next to mine.
Oh, my gosh! My knees shook. It’s a heart of flesh!
The Lord had been talking about two different hearts.
He would take my husband’s stony heart, and he would give me a different heart to hold—new people, new relationships.
Stunned I moved toward the buckets of flowers at the foot of cross. We had been instructed to take a flower for ourselves and place it on the cross. As I took out a flower for me, and one for Blaine, I could hardly see for the tears flowing, flowing down my face. A familiar voice from behind me said, “What’s this, Jonni? Starting over?”
I tried to smile and explain to my former brother in law that the baby was Sharon’s but then I thought, “No, that’s right. I am starting over.”
My friend Tim was at the Sunrise Service that morning, too. I had spoken to him and told him that my marriage was not going to make it.
I certainly did not know it then, but the next Resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo I was there with Tim, my husband, the heart of flesh the Lord had promised. One day earlier that spring he and I had gone to the beach at Semiahmoo together and I had thrown the heart of stone back into the cold ocean waters.
Now, almost 20 years later, Tim and I have moved back to Blaine. Our home overlooks Drayton Harbor. We walk the streets and pray for Blaine, and for the people we stop and talk to on our walks. Recently a friend pointed out to me that the red headed baby boy named “Blaine” was not only a type the Lord showed me about my new husband, but also the represented the call he would put on my life to pray in and for Blaine.
Now, 20 years after Tim and I threw the heart of stone representing my former husband’s heart out into the water at Semiahmoo, God still knows where it is. He will redeem it in his timing.