It has been several years since I first encountered this concept while reading Waking The Dead by John Eldredge. It was one of those “ah ha” moments for me. I had been treating my heart like an enemy, as something from which I most definitely needed to guard myself diligently so as not to feel the pain it contained. Basically, I was trying to kill my heart so it couldn’t “bother” me.
Does anyone see a problem with this game plan? 🙂
Pain happens. There is a world of hurting people out there, and just like any wounded animal, hurting people hurt people. But you know what else, there is also a world of beauty, love, joy, hope, kindness, goodness, and wonders yet to be discovered out there and I’m going to need my heart fully alive to be able to experience those things.
What I discovered when I took the risk to allow my heart an unedited voice was an amazing gift. I definitely had a faulty building block in place that all my heart was good for was pain. My fear was, if I did not keep a strangle-hold on my heart and took the risk to explore it and listen to it, I would be destroyed by its contents. As I type this, I flash upon an image of a con-artist focusing my attention on what he wants me to see so that I miss what is actually transpiring. Yup, that’s what the enemy was doing to me. By trying to survive by “killing my heart”, I was actually cutting off my connection to everything that could overcome and heal the pain.
My heart is made in the image of the Creator of the Universe, the heart that holds all the beauty and love that has ever been created. What a gift!
My heart is a work-in-progress. And, I have experienced the reality of those who mourn will be comforted (Matt 5:4). Rather than being destroyed by allowing my heart to speak, instead I have experienced and continue to experience freedom and life in greater and greater measures.
So what does that look like? It looks like me sitting in the pulpit of a church hidden from view from the congregation by the lectern. The last time I had been in this church was to sing at my Father’s funeral in 1994. Now, I was there to sing at my niece’s wedding (2005). So many memories of my Dad welled up in my heart – that all encompassing blend of joy interlaced with grief that only comes from having known the joy of being loved and loving. The beauty and joy of the present moment as I watched my brother, his wife, my niece and her husband-to-be. My heart did not feel big enough to contain it all. My prayer in that moment was “Lord, I don’t know if I can do this.” Immediately I heard “you can feel it all and it won’t destroy you”. “Really?” “Yes, really.” I didn’t know my heart was capable of anything so wonderful. So, one breath at a time, one pounding heart beat at a time I felt it all. When I stood to sing, I had no idea what would come out. I looked out and saw my husband … more love for my heart to feel. The track he had created to accompany me started to play … more love for my heart to feel. I looked over to my niece and saw this beautiful bride being so lovingly adored by her husband and I flashed on “my husband, Jesus” being with me right next to me as I sang. I thought of my Dad singing in that very same church at my sister’s wedding and me singing at his funeral. It was like no moment I’ve every known before. Fully alive.
Flash forward to a week ago today. We were back at the same church for the christening of my great-niece (same family) followed by a celebration of this beautiful life at my brother’s home. It had been 15 months since I’d been back to visit my family. The last time I was there was for the final 2 week’s of my Mom’s life. My niece had asked me to sing the song from her wedding during the celebration that day. As I prepared that morning my heart so was full again … and I was reminded I can feel it all and not be destroyed. So rather than guard myself against what the day might hold, I opened my heart to embrace it. Every pounding heart beat, every joyful smile; every tender hug; every tear of joy and every tear for those loved ones not with us in body but with us in spirit; every squeal of laughter and delight from my great-niece and her brother and sister; every family story shared – yes, I can feel it all and what a gift that is!