The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Recently, someone asked me, “How are you? How’s your heart.” I was so overwhelmed by the many truthful answers I could have given that I couldn’t reply immediately. I meditated on the question throughout the day, even long after I sent a reply.
The first defensive reply that rose up in me was, “By what right do you ask the condition of my heart – you, who have not given any care to it at all?”
I scratched that – sounded too bitter. But the thought persisted and morphed into, “It’s grown distant from you.” Then I wondered – if my heart had grown distant from people it once sought, had it also grown distant from God?
I put the question in Google and read some passages and sermons that came up. The Parable of the Sower was prominent. I had always thought I resembled the good ground that received the seed and nurtured it into abundant reproduction, but as I reread this parable in light of the question being put to me, “How’s your heart,” along with a sermon of the same name, I began to see how my heart was close to transforming into a thorny, barren wasteland. Was the Word being choked out of me through all my disappointing interactions with people?
Eventually, I sent the reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment.”
When speaking and sharing the question with an old friend later that day, I asked, “How pure can a polluted heart be? Purity in this world still leaves me quite dirty and damaged.” I told her I could have just as truthfully replied, “My heart is bruised and battered. It’s pained and tormented. It’s lonely and sad. It’s been taken for granted and taken advantage of. And it’s no longer trusting. My heart used to be so trusting… It used to be so open….
“Now it’s protected. Now it’s guarded. Now it’s cautious. Now it’s closed to many who once had free access to it.”
She didn’t think that was a bad thing.
I’ve been struggling for balance. Seeking to remain available to those I had offered myself to, while still protecting myself from their lack of care and consideration. Balance between two such opposing goals is impossible. And it’s not necessary.
God isn’t seeking balance from us. He’s demanding all from us.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. ~ Deuteronomy 10:14-16
Perhaps this is where my bruised and battered heart is healed – with the knowledge that it shouldn’t be entrusted to people. People have no respect for something so fragile and precious. So I resurrender fully to my Lord, my God, to my Savior, my Healer, my Shield and Protector. I recommit my heart o the One who created me and knows best how to soothe me.
I must have held some of my heart back from Him in order for it to become so damaged and abused. Psalm 55:22 says when we give our burdens to the Lord, He will take care of us. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. So, what didn’t I give to my Lord?
Whatever I tried to balance with God left me exposed to people’s ill intentions and selfishness.
For my enemies refuse to change their ways; they do not fear God. As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises. His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war. His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers! ~ Psalm 55:19b-21
My heart keeps reaching out to people because it’s full of compassion and has a desire to connect and share its experiences on this journey. Even its bruised and battered condition doesn’t keep it from being powered by love, expressing joy and hope and operating by faith. But when my heart is surrendered to God –every time I surrender to God – the wounds are forgotten as my heart opens and expands to a greater capacity. Perhaps the many scars are necessary. Perhaps the rips and tears, the gouges and punctures are paving way for future expansion. Perhaps everything I saw as people trying to destroy the purity I was trying to maintain was God conditioning my heart for greater battles. Perhaps He was conditioning me for a better reaction to the attacks on my life – the blows don’t stop coming, indeed the enemies refuse to change their ways – but I am better protected when I rest in the shelter of the Most High. I’ve learned to seek Him immediately. I look for His Word first. When I give Him my burdens – the hurt, pain, loneliness and sadness, the many disappointments of dealing with His creation, yes, even those who identify themselves as His chosen – when I am able to confront my weakness and transfer everything that’s damaging me, I am always strengthened in unforeseen ways. I am always better for the process and experience once it has completely run its course.
“How’s your heart,” was a great question to make me evaluate how I’m presenting myself to God… and to others. Though what I dug up wasn’t a complete surprise to me, it may be to those who think they know me. Though I was initially surprised that someone actually asked me such a question, the surprise was short-lived. I began to wonder about their motives, because our interactions had not expressed any care for my heart condition. I wondered if they were seeking to do more damage, i.e. is your heart healed enough to take another beating? However, assuming there was true concern, I wondered if they were aware of the condition of their own heart and if they had traced its roots to see if their heart was resting in Christ or if their negligence left it exposed elsewhere.
As I’ve ruminated on my actual reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment,” I’ve come to appreciate it more. The best I can do is constantly seek God. If, in seeking Him, people hurt me, then I trust the result is still for His glory. The grace He has on tap for me is greater than any harm that comes my way.
May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT
That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. ~ Hebrews 3:7-8 NLT