Where do callouses come from? My understanding is that they are the body's healthy response to pain, friction, pressure, irritation... Callouses on your feet and hands can protect you. But they can also make the affected areas unfeeling, hard, insensitive, and numb.
A Calloused Heart
I wouldn't have considered myself hard-hearted. At least, not until I read these verses from Isaiah - but it didn't use that term. The line 'Make the heart of this people calloused...' got my attention. In a sense I may not be hard-hearted, but in a different light...
This scripture, along with most of the other references to 'hard heartedness' in the Bible speak to this issue from the context of religion and relationship with God. And that's how I've always considered/measured whether or not my heart was 'hard'. Pondering this further however, using the 'calloused' connotation, I realized I can also develop callouses on my heart from disharmony, contention, hurt, and strife in a variety of areas:
- My own, personal relationship with God. Have I ever questioned or blamed God for certain circumstances in my life? God isn't afraid of honest questions, but as soon as that changes to me blaming Him for a circumstance I find myself in....
- My relationship with my family. Are there unspoken thoughts of 'why can't they do this?' that boil over into arguments? Or areas of conversation we intentionally avoid? Do I ever think 'Why are they bringing this up again?' or 'Why can't they be more....?' or 'That's not fair!'
- My relationship with my church. Have I been hurt in the past by spiritual leaders I looked up to and respected? Have I ever felt like I was manipulated, discouraged, taken advantage of, or disapproved by them?
Has hurt, friction, pain, or pressure from any of these areas calloused my heart? Ugh. Suddenly I feel like David in Psalm 51 - 'Create in me a clean heart, oh God...' I need a heart transplant.
How can I tell if I have a calloused heart? Well, how would I (even mentally) respond to some of the questions or circumstances above? For me, almost all those hypotheticals bring specific circumstances to mind. Additionally, I have a couple of litmus tests...
- Can I exercise love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 in the situation?
- Can I apply the words of Audrey Assad's song 'I shall not want' to the situation? (The song is likely inspired by the Litany of Humility)
What about a callous of the heart? First and foremost, I need to understand that its the kindness of God that leads me to realize I need a renewed heart. His desire is for my heart to be healed, soft, and whole. He understands that I didn't intend to get callouses on my heart. I need to remind myself the He loves me and wants the best for me - His best! Then, I think I need to:
- Acknowledge the hurt, turn back to God and trust that He is good and has my ultimate-best destiny in His hands.. Basically saying 'Your will be done, God, not mine. I submit and surrender control of these things that have calloused my heart over to You.'
- Be washed (soaked) in the water of the Word - read and ponder the Bible.
- Spend time in His presence - in singing worship songs, praying, or simply hanging out with God doing every day things.