Calluses are pesky things that most of us experience to one degree or another. We rarely notice what is happening as they are beginning, but ultimately wherever they form they become a problem for us and we want to remove them. Do you know what causes them?
“Calluses form when mild but repeated injury causes the cells of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) to become increasingly active, giving rise to a localized increase in tissue. The resulting hardened, thickened pad of dead skin cells at the surface layer of the skin serves to protect underlying tissues.”
www.britannica.com › science › callus-dermatology
By now you are thinking that this is not new news to you because you have had them at some of the most common places like some of the pads of your feet, your heels, or even the pads of your hands or fingers. I know. Me too, but there is another place where calluses can form that are not visible and create a bigger problem for us than we may even realize as they start to form.
Scripture tells us that calluses can form on our hearts as well. We usually see the word hardened, but Eugene Peterson uses the word callus in his Message version of the Bible, and I think it creates a picture for us that expands the understanding of what can happen to us and likely has already happened in some places of our hearts.
In the Bible a callused heart is one that has become insensitive, indifferent, and unsympathetic. Our hearts become dull and unresponsive. Not unlike our physical heart, if left unnoticed and unattended, it will no longer function as it was designed to do. It can happen so quickly in those moments where we hold on to an offense or allow that little sinful attitude or behavior to go unaddressed. We ignore the nudges of the Holy Spirit or seek to justify ourselves in one way or another.
Over time we may not even recall when the beginning of the calluses on our hearts began to form. We become desensitized to our condition and we start to lose track of what is truth and what is a lie, what is good and what is evil. And when we do that, we get lost on paths we did not intend to take. We may point out the flaws and faults, sins and failings in others, while failing to see our own.
We usually don’t ignore a callus on our feet or hands indefinitely, but our hearts might develop a callus and be left to grow in silence as we hold grudges, biases, judgments, unresolved hurts, and more. If we resist the Holy Spirit’s nudges long enough, we will hear those nudges less and less.
We may choose to only associate with people who don’t challenge us or who practice many of the same types of behaviors and attitudes as we do so that our own issues stay under the radar and no one confronts us. We can stop reading the Bible. The writer of Hebrews tells us why.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Recently I read a post from Tara Furman of Knowing God Ministries. In it she listed five behaviors that warn us of a heart that is becoming callused and dull. As the darkening of the world increases day by day and many ask where the church is in the midst of the darkness, perhaps we should each attend to the condition of our own heart and consider the behaviors Tara lists:
- We begin leading God
- Worry begins to penetrate
- We have difficulty understanding the message or lesson when we go to church, participate in a Bible study, or have our own morning devotions
- Compromise becomes easier and easier
- Mediocrity becomes standard
It can happen to any of us and all of us. How often we read the words of Moses in the Old Testament on this topic of a callused or hardened heart (not just about what happened to Pharaoh), but Jesus addressed it as well in his earthly ministry. Look at how He spoke in the passage below as He also quoted from Isaiah:
“He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.Matthew 13:11-15 MSG
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.”
How can we begin to assess and soften our hearts to be sensitive again to the Holy Spirit so that we can be salt and light in the confusion of the growing darkness in the world?
I think it starts with humility – a quality that is often in short supply in most of us. When it is absent, we are poor listeners and do not see ourselves, others, or God clearly. Only a humble heart will kneel before the Lord. If we can do that, our prayer life can become real, more intimate, and vibrant, less cluttered with words we know we ought to say and fuller of honest words yielding to the truth. That will make it easier to go to the Lord rather than to look for the nearest fig leaves as we try to hide what He can plainly see. And that process will begin to change us from the inside out which is the only way it really works.