Thursday, October 28, 2021

God Tests the Heart

 Read Proverbs 17

 The nineties abused the term paradigm shift.  Any time that someone changed their mind, it was labeled a paradigm shift.

The turn of the century brought us to metrics.  Everything had to have metrics.  It had to be measured.

As we rolled into the pandemic or plandemic—your choice—we saw mass misuse of the words mitigate and efficacy. 

It seems that we are always trying to quantify something in order to determine its worth.  Sometimes we think new is always better.  Sometimes, we might be right.

Sometimes we focus on things that are measurable.  Sometimes, that helps us.  Sometimes the things we can’t measure are more valuable.

Sometimes we want to reduce the effects of something bad or test the value of things designed to bring change or healing or some measure of prevention.

Do you remember the Greek philosopher who said, “Good enough?”  Of course, you do.  It was Mediocretes.

It seems that we want the purest silver or gold, the fastest processor, the biggest bandwidth, the best and purest of whatever we desire.  These are not new concepts as we see in Proverbs 17:3

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,

    but the Lord tests the heart.

Humankind has come up with all sorts of measures and tests and metrics for the things of this world, but only God can truly test the heart.

If you had 100% attendance at worship but you were just doing time, don’t’ think that God was fooled.

If you are always the fashion statement wherever you go but you turn a blind eye to the kid with worn-out shoes and a coat that he outgrew three years ago, God is not impressed.

If you barely get your bills paid each month but you are faithful in your tithe, God sees that too.

We recall from God choosing a king to replace Saul that he doesn’t particularly care for our outward appearance.  He made us.  He knows what we look like.  He knows where we go and what we do. He knows what other people think and say about us but he is not persuaded by the opinions of men.

God sees the heart.

I have told this story before.  You are getting it again.  Long ago and far away, I was a series commander in charge of 12-15 drill instructors who were in charge of about 300 Marine recruits.  The job was simple.  If a drill instructor didn’t think a recruit was going to make it as a Marine, that young man was planted in front of my desk and I either sent him back in training or sent him home. There was a process and paperwork that went with both.

There just were not too many surprises.  Mama’s boys and punks alike showed up with aspirations of being Marines.  The drill instructors didn’t need any instruction on how to deal with either one, but one day they brought me this young man named Watts.  He stood at attention in front of my desk and he seemed like he was barely four feet tall.

He was likely a little taller than that but surely shorter than the minimum height required for service.  His recruiter obviously noticed.  The medical officer that passed him on his entry physical had to notice, but there he was two days into boot camp standing in front of my desk.

The senior drill instructor gave me a perplexed look and said, “what do we do.”  I thought about it for a moment and replied, “train him.”  I wasn’t sure that he would last too long, especially when we go to the obstacle course or confidence course or jumping in and out of trench lines in field training, but why not give him a chance?  He had gotten this far.

He made it through each phase of training.  He had difficulties with some of the physical aspects, but he never quit and always navigated the obstacle successfully.

A couple weeks before graduation, I went to the office where they assigned occupational specialties.  This kid might graduate but we couldn’t send him to the infantry.  His weapons and equipment would weigh more than he did. 

I managed to get him an assignment in motor transport.  He would either be driving a truck—if he could reach the pedals—or fixing them. All was right in the world, at least for the moment.

There is something in the Marine Corps called the needs of the Corps or the needs of the service, and at that time the Corps needed infantrymen.  Watts was going to the infantry.  There was nothing to be done at this point.

The afternoon before graduation the next morning, the recruits get liberty—a chance to have some unsupervised time off.  When Watts came back to the barracks, his drill instructor found he brought some M&Ms with him.  There was no candy allowed in the barracks, so his senior drill instructor brought him to me with this violation of the rules so close to graduation.

I walked him across the parade deck to another drill instructor I knew that had just started training.  I told Watts that I was sending him back to day 1.  The drill instructor kept Watts in his office cleaning and doing various odd jobs until I came back that evening.

The new recruits had been put to bed and the drill instructor had taken his cover off and it was on the desk.  Watts was in the office standing at attention.

I entered the office.  The drill instructor stood and I looked at Watts and said, “do you want to graduate?”

He replied, “Yssr.” That’s yes sir in recruit speak. 

I looked at the drill instructor’s cover—the very first symbol of authority that every recruit sees upon arrival at boot camp and one that he will never forget.  It was just sitting on the desk. 

I told Watts, “Smash it.”

That should have given him pause to think about the unthinkable order I had given him.  He was six feet away from the desk and in a single leap his fist was coming down on the cover.  The drill instructor was in shock.  I pulled the cover away just before Watt’s fist hit the desktop.

He gave me a perplexed look that said, “what now?”

I told him to get back to his platoon and get ready to graduate in the morning.

There is a term for what I did.  It’s called hazing.  It’s not legal, but in that moment, I could see the heart of this young man and that nothing would stand in his way of becoming a Marine.

After graduation, his mother sought out me and the drill instructors that had trained her son.  She had a plate of homemade cookies for us.

She had known the heart of her son for some time and she also knew that what he wanted was not possible, and yet he had done it in spite of the metrics and rules that governed the world of that day.

I saw Watts a few years later in the commissary at Camp Lejeune.  He had been promoted a couple times, deployed to the Mediterranean, and had a wife and son.  He was as salty and confident as you would expect of a young Marine with his experience.

The hardships of his height were incidental to living the desire of his heart.

Very few people know our hearts, but God does.  God does not get wrapped up in all of the external measurements that the world uses.  God sees the heart. God tests the heart.  God knows the heart.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,

    but the Lord tests the heart.

Nothing is hidden from God so we had just as well put away our masks, our facades, and our game faces and just be who God knows us to be—who God made us to be.

The Lord tests the heart.


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