Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By: Elder David Leong

The words of Stephen W. Smith in his book, “The Transformation of a Man’s Heart“:

The journey toward transformation is all about reshaping our hearts, not the muscle within our chest but what Henri Nouwen calls “our hidden center.”

We know little to nothing of our spiritual heart. We keep our distance from it, as though we were afraid. What holds the passion inside of us is what frightens us most. Where we are most ourselves, we are often strangers to ourselves. That is the painful part of being human. We fail to know our hidden center and our submerged parts and so we live and die without knowing who we really are. if we ask ourselves why we think, feel and act in a certain way, we often have no answer, thus proving to be strangers in our own house.

– Henri Nouwen, Letters to Mark (New York: HarperCollins, 1998) p. 74.

Smith goes on to describe a meeting he had with a career military officer and his wife. Theofficer he had been conditioned by years of training to hide his emotion and to remain stoic under all circumstances. The officer’s wife who felt defeated and frustrated remarked, “To live with Mike, well, it’s like living with a rock. I can’t get through. He’s so tough on the outside. But I don’t think there is anything on the inside.” Smith concluded that what this man needed was not to read a book about renewing his marriage but that he needed to journey deep within himself to discern his heart and share what he found with his wife.


Indeed the journey to Christian transformation (read: to grow to maturity in Christ) begins with the desire to look at and own the truth about oneself. It begins as we face the larger truth that we are all unable to permanently and effectively change ourselves without the power of God. We do not have on our own what it takes to reshape ourselves back into Christ’s image. Yes, we were all created in God’s image but sin caused us all to fall short.

Admit it. We all need God’s help to change. And God works through His spoken Word, the Bible. But He doesn’t stop at that. God also works through events, situations and circumstances He brings into our lives – the pain and sufferings we encounter, the disappointments in life, the sorrows and the defeats we face. God also works through people that He brings into our lives.

We need help to keep in step with God’s work in us. We turn to one another. We share our struggles not just with our family and loved ones but also our fellow brothers/sisters in Christ. In turn, we also become soulful advocates for one another in a non-judgmental environment knowing that no one is perfect before the Father.

And so in our families and small groups we support and sharpen one another. Are our lives now perfect? Are all our problems solved? Absolutely, no! Transformation or growth in maturity does not mean we wouldn’t suffer or experience hard times. And maturity is never complete on this side of heaven. We are no trophies of perfect maturity – only people in the process of becoming more and more mature in Christ.

There remains both glory and ruins in our hearts. The ruin in our hearts is easier to see. It is that mess inside us, the residue of sin that has colored everything in our lives, including our hearts to a motley grey. The glory is harder to see. It is knowing that Christ is there and knowing that He takes up residence inside of us. The glory is seeing ourselves as objects of God’s passionate creation and affection. The glory places us on the receiving end of sacred love. The glory is Jesus Christ dwelling in us and knowing that He who called us to Himself is faithful.

Maturing in Christ involves first and foremost our hearts being open to God. If we are to be transformed, God must have access to that place within us and we must be keenly aware of God’s working in us daily through all that we go through in life. We take great comfort in knowing that we can safely put our lives in His good hands knowing that He is the faithful God of all grace.

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