A Pen That Writes On Hearts

IMG_0486What kind of pen writes on hearts, I wonder. Are we talking about your common Sharpie marker, or something with a more quill and ink feel?

If you recall Sunday’s first reading from Jeremiah, you might know what I’m getting at.

“I will place my law within them and write it upon their heart; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

I’ll be honest, this reading didn’t strike me; it was my wife who brought it up over a meal the next day. There was a great beauty to the imagery of the passage, she said. There was a great intimacy to God’s action among God’s people.

The passage, as a result, has not left me this week. At my best, I pray that I live out this law written in my heart, that I remember always that God has entered into my life in a personal, ultimate way and constantly desires my attention.

Indeed, I find it so difficult to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within us; that we’re not called to do this good deed or clock this many hours of prayer to get God’s attention, to rack up heaven points. God is already apart of us, guiding us, whispering in our ear. In truth, those good deeds I do, those moments of prayerful contemplation are really the working of the Holy Spirit. That’s God working within me and me responding by saying, “God’s will be done.”

So, perhaps, this reading from Jeremiah can be somewhat stress-inducing. There are a million and one ways why, in spite of God’s careful calligraphy on my inner organs, I still fail to live in God’s peace.

The passage, though, can be read in a way that makes the history of God’s people my own history. Rather than focusing on the very true fact that God has written God’s law on our hearts, has moved behind handholding of God’s people, I reflect on where that spectrum falls in my own life. It becomes a call to constant conversion rather than a once and done thing that I either understand or fail.

If we start with this image of God taking Israel by the hand out of Egypt, we may see clearly moments in our own life when God has needed to push us about to get us to where we’re going. We may have gone grudgingly; we may have simply followed the pack; we may have not even known what we were looking for at the end of the road. But God is still at work.

Then, this final point, our “destination,” is that submission to God’s will, that whole self submission to the writing on our hearts. Do we allow God to work in us? Is our knee-jerk reaction one of God’s will or of our own?

Certainly we all fall somewhere on this spectrum—and there are so many places in between. Perhaps at our best we glimpse that whole self submission; perhaps at our worst we shake our fists at God’s inscrutable working in our lives.

As we near the end of these 40 days of Lent, it’s a good time to assess where we fall and, perhaps more importantly, what God’s law written on our hearts asks of us.

Eric Clayton

Eric Clayton works at Catholic Relief Services as part of the U.S. Church Engagement Division. He holds an MA in international media from American University and a BA in international studies and creative writing from Fairfield University. He currently lives in Baltimore with his wife and hedgehog.