One of my favorite priests begins daily mass by encouraging us in a soft voice with a twinkle in his aging eyes, “Let us begin by opening our hearts to God…” Later, he invites us to “Lift up our hearts to the Lord.” Since I began my journey to follow Christ, I have been intrigued by how often the word “heart” is found in the Scriptures. It is one of those words that I have been drawn to without fully understanding its meaning. It has seemed to me a weighty word, packed with significance. Our heart is crucial to our physical life but equally vital to our emotional and spiritual well-being.
When I began a program of recovery in my mid-thirties, my first sponsor suggested that rather than relying solely on my brain, I might begin to exercise another organ, my heart. They say that we stop growing emotionally when our addiction takes over. If this is true, I began recovery with the emotions of a 16-year-old. I had a lot of growing up to do. I was trying to live my life with a heart that had been severely wounded—initially by others, then later by my own hand, choices, and decisions. You could say that I needed a heart transplant.
As I moved forward in recovery and began “growing along spiritual lines,” as the program suggests, I joined a women’s Bible Study. One of the women, who later became a close friend, talked about “guarding your heart.” Again, I wasn’t sure what that phrase actually meant, but it seemed a wise thing to do, and I wanted to know more.
I began reading passages like—
“God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit.” (Psalm 51:10) — I sure wanted that.
I found comfort in—
“God is close to the brokenhearted, to those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) — I have come to believe that it is in my pain that God is closest to me, whether I realize it or not.
I found hope in—
“A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good… for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) — This can be my future as God’s Spirit works in me.
And my favorite—
“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) — Mary is also described as “pondering all these things in her heart.” That is a beautiful picture of a wise woman—reflecting and going to God before acting, living a life of faithfulness to love and goodness.
Along the way, I have learned more about the heart—
*A wounded heart cannot see correctly, so when I’m hurting my perspective is not accurate.
*A hurt, resentful heart makes me ugly while a pure, clean, healthy, whole heart makes me beautiful in God’s eyes.
*We use the phrase “Don’t lose heart” to encourage someone not to give up or lose hope.
I will carry my heart with me my whole life, so it makes sense that taking care of it should be a high priority for me. As we begin 2019, let’s look at the condition of our hearts. Sit quietly and ask God to show you. Does someone come to mind? Does an old hurt bubble to the surface? God’s Spirit is so faithful to lead us in this endeavor. I was recently asked, “Are you willing to look at your dark side more than ever this year?” I want to say, “Yes”.
These are just a few of God’s precious words in Scripture that speak to me and help me along the way—some of my favorites. What are yours? I encourage you to write them down or maybe even do a word study on “heart.”
I want to live my life with a heart wide open, or wholeheartedly. I don’t want to hold back. How about you?
I’ll close with a prayer I recently read—
“O God, sow your Word once more in our hearts today; till patiently the soil of our souls bring forth a rich harvest, so that all may find nourishment for body and spirit through the lives of your people. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”