In mid-January I woke to another new experience--snowmelt dripping off the eaves on a sunny day. I glanced outside and the snowman had gone on a crash diet, slimming to the point of losing appendages and facial features. Before long patches of brown peeked through the white and the piles of dirty gray snow left by the snow plows on the roadsides were shrinking. Salty slush splashed up under the passing cars. We even abandoned our heavy coats for cardigans. A few hardy souls went out in shirtsleeves as the thermometer climbed toward fifty.
“It’s over already?” I wondered. “Is this spring?” But no, not a week later a blizzard blew through. The respite was over. This was just “the January thaw,” I was told. Some people dispute the notion of a January thaw. Others, who have charted temperatures for decades, cite those figures to show that there is indeed a rise in them occurring the third week of January in New England, and a week or so earlier in the Plains states. It may be folklore, but there appears to be something to it.
The scriptures talk about a more important thaw—that of the heart.
As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel. Josh 5:1. Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt, Isa 13:6,7.
The Canaanites’ hearts melted with fear at the power of Jehovah. The Babylonians would fear when that same Jehovah came in destruction on their empire. Even his own people feared enough to repent for awhile. The Bible is full of such language. It is nothing more than pure terror. In most of those cases, the fear subsided and the heart froze yet again. How many times do we hear that Pharaoh once again “hardened his heart?” Just as the presence of a trooper on the side of the read will lighten a lead foot for about a half mile, terror only lasts a short time. And while fear certainly has its place in our relationship with God, it isn’t the antifreeze a heart needs to stay faithful.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules, Ezek 36:26,27. Just as Judah needed not just a melted heart, but a completely new and soft one, we also need a new heart—a new attitude—about who God is. Not just an all powerful king and authority in our lives, but a provider, a redeemer, and a Father.
Recognition of what God has done to save us, and the gratitude and love that follow will keep one’s heart warm toward God. It will last more than a few days, and even through a blizzard of trials. Then we can experience the true warmth of spring in our hearts, the flowering of new growth in our spirituality, and a flourishing relationship with our Creator.
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you, 1 Chron 29:17,18.