I wanted what she had, and I wanted it badly.
Like a little girl who saw another little girl’s pretty new doll. Or a teenager who spotted another teenager’s shiny new smart phone. Or a woman who eyed another woman’s sparkly diamond ring. She had something I didn’t have, and it was all I could think about.
It was nothing short of coveting.
Should I be ashamed? Not really. But, to understand that, you would have to know what I coveted. You would need to know what she had that I wanted so badly.
I wanted a clean heart like hers. A fresh and revived soul. One that felt unhindered and unburdened. A soul that wasn’t filled with the weight of all those things I eventually discovered in my backpack (see my previous post). I wanted what she had, and I wanted to get it in the same all-consuming way she got it. I just didn’t know how.
The “she” I refer to is Ann Graham Lotz. Her sweet southern drawl hung heavy in the air as I listened to a her share something she had experienced preparing for an event: an experience of broken repentance. Seven days spent on her face as God “peeled her like an onion.” In the end, she was totally exhausted in a beautiful way. She compared the process to a painful surgery that she didn’t want to end until God had removed every bit of disease. In the end, she felt cleaner than ever before. It prepared her for God to reveal Himself to her in a fresh way.
I wanted that. How could I get what she got?
I’d like to say I did what Ann Graham Lotz did, and I got on my face. Instead, I chewed on it. I let the image of her on her face fill my thoughts. I told God I wanted that. I asked Him to give me one of those onion-peeling, painful surgery, exhausting experiences. And He answered. He gave me a passage of Scripture.
“Are you so dull?” He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their hearts but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean. He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:18-23, NIV
That was a lot of stuff to deal with. Those were a lot of things, and surely all of them weren’t inside me. But I got the message. God wanted to answer my prayer. He wanted to start a cleansing in me, and He was showing me how He wanted me to proceed.
One word at a time.
Then, He showed me the word He wanted me to start with. Malice. That was the word that jumped off the page of my Bible and into my soul. That was the word to be dealt with, at least as a start. And I didn’t even have a good understanding of what it meant. So, I did what I do. I looked it up. Not in the dictionary, but in the Greek. I didn’t want Webster’s interpretation of what I needed to address. I wanted it straight from the language Mark would have written as he transcribed the words the Holy Spirit gave him. I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong. Thank you, Mr. Strong, for your Concordance.
Malice. Poneria – G4189. Strong’s definition is Badness. Depravity. Trouble. Evil. Naughtiness or Wickedness. It comes from the Greek word Kakos – G2555, meaning Worthless and Injurious. Evil in the widest sense.
And I had thought malice would have been the least of the evils.
In the weeks that followed I discovered a lot of misconceptions about things I had read in the Bible. I learned a lot about words I thought I knew. At the time I called it my Spiritual Detox. Following my South African mission trip, I referred to it as “Unpacking my Backpack”. Going forward, it will be My Big Fat Greek Word Search.
In the weeks to come I will share what I learned through my word search. I will share some of the ways God showed me these toxic words, these backpack-burdens, had diseased my soul and hindered my spiritual life. I will also share the prayer I wrote each day as God showed me what was in my heart that needed to be removed.
One of the most beautiful things about this “unpacking” experience was that God showed me I didn’t have to cure myself. I didn’t have to “fix” all these things that were wrong in me; these things that were weighing me down. All I had to do was give them to Him. Give Him access to my spiritual backpack. Let Him take these toxins, these weights, one thing at a time. One Word at a time. He would deal with them. He would do the “fixing” and the curing and the healing. All I had to do was to be still and give him access to do the work.
I hope you will join me over the next several weeks as I revisit my Big Fat Greek Word Search. I ask forgiveness in advance for anyone I may offend with any reference to Greek in a way that gives an appearance if disrespect. That is not my intent. My intent is to share how this word search has impacted me and let God change me like He did Ann Graham Lotz. Totally exhausted in a beautiful way. Cleaner than ever before. Prepared for God to reveal Himself to you in a fresh, new way.
Here is my prayer for God to remove the Malice. I hope it will serve to kick-start your prayer life and help you pray through a process of spiritual renewal in your life.
Father, I’ve filled my heart with all sort of things that are empty and void. They take up space and prevent You from filling my heart with your love and compassion. I can’t keep your greatest command to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself, because my heart doesn’t have the capacity for it right now. It’s too full of worthlessness. It’s also full of things that will injure me.
I ask You, Father, to remove this blanket description of Malice that covers every other evil sin that has taken up residence in my heart. I throw back this blanket and lay my heart bare to You. Give me the strength in the coming days to let You expose to me each individual sin to be dealt with. I give You this blanket of Malice and let you cover me with Your blanket of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
Take a coal from the altar of burnt offering and touch my heart with it. Take that symbol of the temple ritual of cleansing and begin a cleansing of my temple. Cleanse the Malice. Cleanse me of everything evil. Cleanse all of me and make me fit for Your service, so that when the time comes and You ask who You can send, I will be ready.