Who Is On The Throne of Your Heart?
Buzz off buddy, she burnt you last night!
The setting was a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Disciple Training School that I was leading in rural Virginia. A young lady named Kim had arrived at the training center with a set of conflicting affections. Kim and been raised in a Christian home, but recently had become involved with a young man who did not share her moral values. This involvement has taken its toll on her relationship and walk with God. At the urging of her mother, Kim had enrolled in our school. As the initial weeks passed, we noticed that Kim was starting to respond to the love of God. God’s Word was coming alive in heart again and saying to her, Kim, I love you.
Mid-way through the school term I found myself in front of the classroom. The students sat there, so eager to know and serve God. The session topic that day was on the relinquishment of rights; a message that may very well try their faith. For some it might even determine whether they would go on with this God thing. I spoke about the life of Abraham and how he had to give up Isaac, upon whom all God’s promises were to be fulfilled. The teaching pointed out that there are things in our lives, some good and some bad, which if we hold on to, will hinder our intimate relationship with Him, and put a roadblock in the way of being useful for Him. Normally, we have an application or response to this teaching. We instruct the students to take some time in prayer after the session, asking the Lord if there was anything that He wanted them to relinquish. Was there anything in their lives that was more important to them than God? The bonfire would be built and students would come with carefully worded notes to the Lord written from their hearts. Apprehensive but determined, students would come and cast slips of paper into the fire, watching them turn to ash, knowing that the Lord gives and He takes away. It was an activity between them and God. There was no public disclosure of what God was requiring of them and if God showed them something that was fine, and if He didn’t, that was okay also. There was no external pressure applied. But God always seemed to show up.
That day the rain pelted against the classroom wall. A low pressure area had descended upon us, and the weather forecast called for twenty-four to thirty-six hours of steady rain. This sort of precluded a bonfire, but one of our staff members said; “There is no miracle in the fire, why don’t we put a candle in a bucket and do it right here in the class room?” We decided we would give it a try. The spiritual atmosphere turned out to be just as solemn. There is always a sacred presence in meetings like these. People bring lifelong dreams and aspirations and place them before God to take or give back. Young people would often bring specific relationships or even the right to have a long-term relationship. Young potential missionaries would place even their call from God in the hands of the Righteous Judge. Neither the young people, nor God takes lightly the gravity of moments like these.
That night was no different. The little candle flickered near the rim of the bucket. One by one the students, with notes in hand and people, plans, and desires running through their minds, approached the candle. Written on the notes (known only to them and God) were things like; Lord, I give you my desire for a spouse. Dear Lord, I relinquish to you my vision to serve in Africa. Jesus, I lay at your feet my relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend. As they gazed at the paper turning into charred ash, they envisioned their dreams going up in smoke. Some must have wanted to pull it back, but they knew if it was never totally given over to God, they would never know if it was theirs or His. What was the resounding question reverberating in our minds that evening? Was there anyone or anything more important to us than God?
That night Kim sat near the front of the classroom toward the side. As the meeting progressed, she took out of her Bible a picture. Yes, it was a photo of her boyfriend. She stared at it for a few moments and then with great care placed it back in the Bible. She took it out and put it back at least twice, each time with a longing expression.
My eyes panned out across the classroom. Everyone who so desired had been given the opportunity to respond. As I was about to close the session, Kim arose with picture in hand and moved toward the front. She had counted the cost and with a determined look on her face purposed to put God first. Kim placed the picture in the flame, her expression revealing that it was an object of great value. It was one of those old Polaroid pictures that seemed like it was made partly of wax. As the flame started to burn through and melt the picture, it bent and made a cracking sound. You felt as if you could almost hear her heart breaking. Her fingertips continued to hold fast to the print. She started to feel the heat from the flame. Her fingers separated from the picture and the charred remains dropped into the outstretched hands of a waiting God. That night there was a change of the residents in her heart; one moved out who could never totally fulfill her, and one moved in that would never, ever disappoint her. It was a very memorable moment, both for Kim and the lover of her soul.
Where the Rubber Met the Road
The next morning as I was walking toward the dining hall and the pay phone rang. I almost never answered the pay phone, but it rang and I was there and so I picked up. Guess who it was? Yes, it was Kim’s boyfriend. What do I say to him? Buzz off, she burnt you last night! No, it was not my place to speak. I told someone to go get Kim. What did she tell the guy? I don’t know. I never asked her, because frankly it was none of my business. These are sovereign areas that only involved her, her boyfriend, and God.
I do know that she finished the school and instead of going back to her home area, she worked for a couple of years as a missionary with Youth With a Mission. That speaks for itself.
Why did God have me answer the phone that night? I think there may be two reasons. First, He wanted to remind me again that words can sometimes be cheap. It is not what we say but what we do that counts. Even symbolic gestures such as burning our notes can be useless unless we are committed to follow through. The real test for Kim came not in the classroom that night. Yes, maybe it started there, but the real test happened when she talked with her boyfriend. That is where, spiritually speaking, the rubber met the road. This is where she proved whom she really loved.
Second, God was trying to reaffirm to me that relationship with God and the Lordship of Christ are real and important issues to God. The burning of our notes was not just a spiritual game we were playing, but an avenue to allow God to take His rightful place in our hearts. There is only room for one God in our hearts. There is the capacity for many loves in our life, but only after the One True God reigns supreme. Anything that challenges His supremacy and lordship is a vane idol, which God in His mercy must allow to die. Why? Because He knows idols will never fulfill those who worship them. That night or any night, it is really all about; who is on the throne of your heart?
Adapted from Ken Barnes, TheChicken Farm and Other Sacred Places: The Joy of Serving God in the Ordinary (Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2011), 24–27.