December 15, 2021

Give Me a Heart of Flesh: A Lesson from the Grinch

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

~ Dr. Seuss

I have loved Dr. Seuss for as long as I can remember. There’s just something about the whimsical drawings and made up words that make me smile. (I mean who doesn’t love gruvvulous gloves?) As a child, I checked out The Lorax from our tiny local library more times than I can count. The mere thought of “truffula trees” still brings me joy. When my children were born, I filled their shelves with their own copies of Dr. Seuss’ treasures.

As an Ivy League-educated political activist with no children of his own, Theodore Seuss Geisel was an unlikely children’s author. And yet, he was uniquely able to capture the fanciful imagination of a child.

Although Geisel often insisted that he never set out to write morality tales, there is an undeniable truth, intentional or otherwise, that flows from his words. Theologians and Seuss lovers have debated whether Geisel deliberately used Christian themes and imagery in many of his stories. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is an excellent example of a story whose message melds well with Christian theology, and it holds a special place in my heart.

For many years, even after becoming a Christian, I struggled with the belief that there was something wrong with my heart. I never seemed to experience the joy or peace I saw in others. I felt unable to enter into intimate relationship with the One who had given his life for me. Loving well didn’t come naturally—and boy did I beat myself up about that!

In my early 30s, God began to show me the condition of my heart. He never condemned me but simply revealed that my heart had become hard. On some level I already knew this, but I thought it was a problem I had to fix—and I didn’t know how. Hardening of the heart is a natural consequence of life in a fallen world. It happens to all of us. When we don’t let God deal with our pain and unforgiveness, bitterness and fear take hold. God alone provides a remedy through his love.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

— Ezekiel 36:26

With God’s revelation, a new cry entered my heart. The words of the prophet Ezekiel took on new meaning. I was desperate for a heart transplant. I didn’t want to live with fear and bitterness anymore. God, give me a new heart!

It didn’t happen immediately. Truthfully, it has taken years, but I can see now that God heard my cry and began to soften my heart at a pace I could handle. He was gently transforming me. I’ve often described it as a drip, drip, drip of his love.

Eventually, the softening allowed a greater impartation of his love (the substance of his being) to enter my heart. You see, we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19) When our hearts are scarred and hard, surrounded by self-protective walls, experiencing God’s love becomes difficult. It is not our job to fix it, but to give God a simple “Yes!He alone makes it possible for us to love by healing our hardened hearts and expanding our capacity to hold his love. Just like the Grinch, we can experience heart expansion and life transformation that impacts everyone around us.

And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!

If you find yourself longing for a change of heart, pray with me today:

Father, thank you for loving me.

Thank you for caring about my heart condition.

Forgive me for holding onto unforgiveness and bitterness.

Forgive me for trying to take control.

Show me the way forward.

Help me to forgive.

Help me to let go of my need to fix myself.

Soften my heart with your love.

Heal the places that have become hard.

Expand my heart’s capacity to hold your love.

And allow me to experience an overflow of your love, peace, and joy.

All this I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen

‘Sometimes healing comes by waving the white flag of surrender when everyone else is telling you to stay in the fight.’
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