Generally, I have trouble working my way through passages of obscure laws and judgement, but listen to these words (brace yourselves--it's a long-ish passage!):
"When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there to Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. [...]
The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him and live. [...] The Lord again will delight in you and make you prosperous just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands [...] and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
I always sort of felt like an Israelite--one of God's chosen who constantly wandered off into their own wilderness of sorts, only to be called back to the land of her fathers. From the time I was a young girl, I honestly have felt "claimed" by God. By this, I mean that once I made the conscious decision to follow Christ, his grip was firm upon my life. No matter how many times I wandered away (and trust me, I wandered to the very distant of lands), I sensed a pull from the Lord. Many times, I even ignored that pull, but I knew it was there. And I wanted to go back to him, but I was stubborn, just like an Israelite in the Old Testament.
This description so vividly reminds me of my life during and post college. I learned about God from my parents, so the "land of my fathers" is very clearly the "land of following Christ" as demonstrated by my parents. During and after college, I did not "turn to the Lord" with all my "heart and with all my soul;" my Christianity was very half-hearted. I didn't seek out Christian fellowship; I stayed tucked away in my own warm, homemade Christian-like blanket and was content to stay there. It was nice and I was happy.
Sure, I wandered a lot and was confused a lot but it took several infrequent (but intense) dances with despair for me to finally have a harsh awakening and return. My return was right around the time Elliott and I re-met. It is so clear to me that God intended us for each other because we have brought each other so close to the Lord--we have brought each other into a relationship with God that involves all of our heart and soul.
I also think this passage is interesting because here is an Old Testament passage using the term "circumcision of the heart." It reminds me of Paul, when he tells the new church that they need not be physically circumcised to enter into Christ's family. And here we are--even in the Old Testament--being told that really, what matters is the heart. We should really reflect on what this phrase means (and I'm sure my theologian readers would have a more comprehensive interpretation. Please do shed some more light on this issue.). Circumcision is painful, but it is also a separation. Circumcising the heart has got to be painful--a giving up of our selves in order to separate from the world and point to God's glory.
Nah, it's not easy. But he didn't say it would be, now did he?