Stone by Stone: Tear Down the Wall Between God’s Heart and Yours
by Jasona Brown
How would your life change if you knew in your bones that God looks on you not with disappointment, anger, or tepid tolerance, but with joyous love and delight? Jasona Brown understands, through personal experience and years of ministering to others, that when a wall of stones blocks our heart from receiving God’s love we live a stunted Christian life. With Stone by Stone she will help you identify and remove ten stones that may block your intimacy with the God of love—including guilt, unforgiveness, lies, and unhealed memories—so that you can live in the joy of knowing you are God’s beloved son or daughter.
A Boat, a Box, and a Girl Who Built a Wall
I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16).
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
The sea shimmered under the sun as the Cape Hason, my family’s commercial fishing boat, chugged into the harbor of Tokeen, Alaska, in May of 1973. I was four and excited about docking, eager to run up and down on land, visit with fish-buyers and fuel-dock operators, and drink a cold orange soda—all impossible during the long, slow days we spent trolling for king salmon.
My dad slowed the boat to avoid making a wake, and the diesel engine rumbled deeper. He slowed it again and we were hardly moving. How could I speed this up? My dad would soon offload the salmon iced in the hold, down near the hull.
“Can I open the hatch, Dad?” I asked.
“No,” he said. Then, “Well, I guess that’s okay. Go ahead.”
The wooden hatch—nautical grey—fit as a lid over an opening to the hold. I pulled it up, tugged it over, and shoved it aside while the boat sidled toward the dock.
My mom climbed out of the pilot house with a red handkerchief knotted over her black braids and grabbed a tie-up line. She stood with one leg over the rail, ready to leap off the boat and tie it to the faded wooden dock. My orange life-jacket pressed against my chest and scratched at the back of my neck.
Glancing down, I saw one of my shoes was untied. I couldn’t run like that. I turned to sit and tie my shoe, and I sat in the open hatch. I fell backward, tumbling six feet to the bottom of the hold. The left side of my head crashed into the corner of the wooden box that covered the shaft, and I lay still against the cold wooden beams of the hull.
My dad threw the boat into neutral, leaving us drifting, and leapt down the hatch after me. As he lifted me up to my mom, the left side of my face drooped and my left arm hung awkwardly.
Tokeen, where less than fifteen people live year-round, is several days’ travel by boat to a city with a hospital, and there were no phones to call for a plane. My parents relayed messages by CB radio, boat to boat, to reach the Coast Guard and ask for a sea-plane to come for me. Hours later in the hospital in Ketchikan, I cried as a nurse used scissors to cut my favorite striped T-shirt off my chest. And Dr. Wilson told my parents I had a depressed skull fracture; pieces of bone were cutting into my brain, disabling the left side of my body. No one at the hospital in Ketchikan could perform the surgery I needed to survive, and the airport was closed for the night.
But Dr. Wilson ferociously pursued help for me. He argued on the phone with administrators at Alaska Airlines, demanding they reroute and land the last commercial flight leaving Alaska that day, due to pass over Ketchikan en route from Anchorage to Seattle. Finally, he shouted that if they did not land the plane, he would lie in a field and shoot it down. They listened, and a commercial jet made an unscheduled landing to rescue me and fly me to Seattle for the surgery that saved my life.
My mom brought me some old pictures a few years ago, and I looked for a long time at a shot of me taken in Seattle as I recovered from six hours of neurosurgery. I sit hunched in a bathtub, naked except for the white bandages wrapped around my head. The left side bulges. My lips are pressed together and turned up at the corners in a tentative smile. But while my mouth smiles, my eyes do not. Looking at the photo, I recognized in my four-year-old eyes the heavy fear that entered my heart that day. The enemy of my soul had begun his assault.
Trauma churns up our need to make meaning out of life: Why did this happen? What does this mean about me? About God?
Our enemy eagerly supplies his answers: lies. Jesus said when Satan lies “he speaks his native language” (John 8:44 NIV). The devil knows our wounds make us vulnerable, and he strikes just then. He wants us to absorb his lies so that we build a wall between God’s heart and ours.
When I shattered my skull, my heart heard him hiss, “God will not protect you. He does not love you. You are not safe. This accident was your fault.” God had rescued me, but I did not see it. I listened to my enemy. Accepting his lies, I cemented lie-stones into a wall between my heart and God’s heart. They stood—preventing me from knowing the truth about God’s love for me—for the next thirty years.
Two years after my accident, a friend invited me to Sunday school in Petersburg, Alaska. I remember walking alone through the rain and mud on dark winter Sundays to the wooden Baptist church at the edge of town. There among the felt boards in a classroom full of color, under the care of a smiling woman, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I do not remember a day after that when I did not know Jesus was God’s Son and the Bible was true.
But part of my heart stayed trapped—full of fear—behind the wall of lies. No matter how often I heard God loved me, I felt unlovable and unsafe.
Kids ran by me on the playground, knocking on the helmet I wore daily for six years as my skull healed. “Knock. Knock. Anybody home?” they taunted.
“You’re ugly,” the enemy told me. “No one will love you.” I believed him.
Until I was thirteen I had an aunt—Nora—who sang, played the piano, and sewed life-sized dolls for me. And she had a little girl, Lauren. But when Nora was twenty-four and Lauren was four, my uncle John beat them to death with a steel rod from his weight-lifting set.
“See. God does not love you. Violence will destroy you or those you love,” the enemy said. I didn’t protest.
Each lie, like a malignant grain of sand in the soft flesh of an oyster, grew not into a pearl but into another stone. I had no idea I was blocking out the very love that would heal me. My wall grew as I cemented in other types of stones: anger at God, a mask, memories that would not heal, demonic oppression, and others. I will share with you more about them as we go on together.
So even as my commitment to God grew during my college years, my heart remained unable to experience his love. The stone wall kept it out. I knew my faith in God should make me unafraid, but it didn’t. I feared brutal violence would strike me or people I loved and it would be my fault. I knew a Christian should be hopeful, but I wasn’t. I dreaded that when I faced God at the end of my life, he would toss me out. I knew God loved me because the Bible said he did, but I felt unloved and abandoned. I despaired I could ever trust him enough, or serve him enough, to be someone he loved.
Then one night God helped me tear down some of the stones in this wall, and he engulfed my heart with his love. I shook with sobs and laughter. In astonishment and joy I understood God desired me, rejoiced over me, and treasured me.
I felt I had not—until that moment—understood the Christian life. I marveled that I could have been so obtuse. How could I have been a Christian for thirty-two years and not have comprehended the joyousness, immensity, and generosity of the love of God? How could my imagination have conjured him so meagerly? The wall between his heart and mine had stood in my heart all along, not his. He had waited, longing for me to tear it down.
I gasped with joy at a love “better than life” (Psalm 63:3). And I realized that martyrs gladly give their lives for Jesus, not because they are more committed, brave, or crazy than me, but because they know this love. Knowing it, they desire to be with God more than they want to keep their lives.
I understood how God could command me to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27). How can I not love him this way, knowing the way he loves me? John’s words, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) rang true. The Christian life finally made sense.
I look forward to telling you more about this night in the chapter on anger at God.
I long for you to experience God’s heart too. I pray this book will inspire and equip you to tear down—stone by stone—any wall standing between God’s heart and yours. I hope you will flourish in the warmth of his passion for you. You have been looking for his love, whether you know it or not, all your life.
Picture a small plant rooted in the dirt. What does it need to grow? It needs soil and water, but it also needs exposure to the sun—a radioactive fireball so vast it could swallow 1.3 billion earths. Imagine if our plant were blocked from soaking up the gifts of the sun. We know it would wither. It might twist itself trying to find a scrap of artificial light, or its roots might go searching in dark places for some other source of nourishment for survival.
We are like plant, except we require the sunlight of God’s love. A little love from one source or another will not suffice. We need the infinite and unending love of the eternal God to make us sane, healthy, and free to become all God created us to be. If a wall of stones blocks the warmth of God’s love from reaching us, we will not flourish. We might become twisted, and in our desperation we might search in dark places for what we need to live.
If you feel frustrated because no matter how often you hear that God loves you, your heart—impervious to what you hear—believes God looks upon you with disappointment or anger, I wrote Stone bv Stone for you. I want to help you identify the stones preventing God’s love from reaching your heart and to help you seek God to tear them down—stone by stone—until your heart celebrates, knowing your Father not only loves you but delights in you.
Each chapter in this book describes a different stone you might find in the wall between God’s heart and yours and includes spiritual exercises to help you cooperate with God to remove that stone. Please spend as much time as you need with each exercise before moving on to the next. Some exercises may not touch anything for you, and you may move through them quickly. Others may require more time. Still others may call you to come back to them a month, or a year, or five years from now. I hope Stone by Stone will sit like a patient friend on your shelf, available to guide you whenever the Lord reveals a stone he wants to help you tear down.
You will also find at the end of each chapter a list of discussion questions to help you read Stone by Stone together with a friend, mentor, or small group. I pray you will have courage to seek at least one friend to journey through this book with you. God’s love for you, shining in the eyes of another of his children, helps stones come down more quickly. And there is more power in praying with someone else than in praying alone (Matthew 18:20).
I pray any wall between God’s heart and yours will come down, stone by stone. May your Father’s love—an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) that reaches as “high as the heavens are above the earth” (Psalm 103:11)—pour into your heart (Romans 5:5). I pray you will come to know more deeply the One who is love and be forever changed (1 John 4:16).
What Do I Long for in My Relationship with God?
- Sometimes we are reluctant to admit our longings, even to ourselves, because we expect disappointment. Please ask God to help you become aware if reading this chapter has awakened in you any longing to know his love more deeply. Do you sense anything squelching that longing: Skepticism? Anxiety? Something else?
- Prayerfully read Matthew 20:29-34. Jesus often asked people, “What do you want me to do for you?” Imagine Jesus asked you that question. What would you like him to do for you in regards to your relationship with the Father? Do you need help even hoping your relationship with him can grow? Please write your answer to him in a journal or notebook.
Do I Experience the Warmth of His Love?
- Prayerfully read 1 John 4:16:“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love.” Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you believe God feels about you—not how you know you are supposed to believe—but how your heart believes, regardless of what you know. Sit quietly for several minutes and pay attention to whatever he brings to your mind.
- Please tell God what has come to mind and write down your thoughts, even if it’s just a few words or phrases. Thank him if you have experienced his love. Express to him your desire to know more of his heart.
Do I Have a Wall in My Heart?
- Isaiah 49:16 reads, “Your walls are continually before me.” Most of us do not realize if we have a wall in our heart blocking God’s love. We think if there is a wall, it stands in his heart. Please ask the Lord to show you if there is a wall between him and you. Write down anything you become aware of.
- If nothing has come to mind, please don’t worry. You are inviting the Lord into the conversation with you, and though he is rarely predictable, he is always faithful. Be alert as you go through your days. He might show you something when you least expect it.
- If you have ideas about what stones make up the wall between God’s heart and yours, ask the Lord to help you tear them down, stone by stone. You may need to ask him for courage to do so. Consider making Moses’s words your prayer, praying this every day while you read this book: “Satisfy [me] in the morning with your steadfast love, that I may rejoice and be glad all my days”(Psalm 90:14).
- How do you relate to Jasona’s story of struggling to know God’s love for her?
- Did reading this chapter awaken any longings in you to know God more deeply or cause you any apprehension?
- Do you feel free to experience the fullness of God’s love for you? Please explain.
- What kind of wall might be standing between God’s heart and your heart? Please explain.