The Real Estate of Our Hearts
Jan 13, 2019 07:50AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
One of my children, Little Man, is heavily grieving a close middle school friend moving away. They are both part of a close-knit group of five friends who look out for one another. In one way or another, most of them have known struggle, and as a result, their sense of protectiveness runs strong.
As I read the card my son wrote to his friend and saw the great lengths to which he went to convey how much he meant to him, huge tears ran down my face. It loosened something deep within me. My son is only 13 years old, and yet, he felt compelled to empty his heart so that this friend felt loved and safe as he made a huge transition. The overall message of it was:
You matter. You are always my friend. I will deeply miss you. Please, please know that you are still a part of us.
While, of course, I am ridiculously proud of my son, this is not intended as a bragfest. It gave me pause because I saw how much my son loved without reserve. Without fear. Hmmm.
Perhaps many of us are able to do that because of how we are wired or due to intentionality on our parts to overcome insecurities and fear of rejection and disappointment.
But the secondary piece was that he did not keep it in his head and heart. He expressed it.
And I’d like to challenge us:
How many of us do that? Love big—expressively?
Recently I went through a very painful season of fear, devastation, and disillusionment. It started with an ongoing health struggle in our home, but along with it, it dragged in old echoes of abandonment, feeling unheard, questioning my own value, and an overall longing to have people express love, speaking into the slime and sludge of my everyday.
Did I know those dear ones closest to me loved me? Sure, with my mind I knew that to be true.
But my heart ached for connection and communication.
Along the lines of what Little Man said to his friend, I needed:
You matter. I remember. You are in my heart, thoughts, and prayers. I see your pain and care. I’m in this with you. You are still my tribe.
Know what I mean?
How about you?
One of my extended family relationships is like this. It always shocks me when love is expressed because it is so rare, and I find myself saying: “Really? You feel this way? I had no idea. So many choices you make with regard to me do not indicate this.”
And part of the lifelong pattern in that particular relationship is that this person has entire conversations with me in her head, likely feels it in her heart, but assumes I know it. It has wreaked endless havoc and misunderstanding because there is very little expression, and I’m left to go on actions in order to perceive how she does or does not care for me. And how do I read that when the actions are greatly lacking, sometimes even damaging?
Maybe you have this disconnect with someone yourself. Or maybe you are the one struggling to put to words the love you unquestionably feel in your heart. I get it. I know it can be difficult to show or speak emotion. It comes easily to me (too easily, ha!), but I know it doesn’t for others, and I have compassion for that.
So, how do we live safely with the risk of opening our entire hearts? After all, there is so much hurt out there, and we are imperfect people, works-in-progress until the day we leave this planet.
What is the remedy?
People wound us, and we hurt back. It’s gonna happen. But Who keeps our heart safe, freeing us up to love big, even when we are afraid?
Conquering the fear, we see that God is the One Who helps us.
Isaiah 41:13, ESV
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
He asks for the surrender of our hearts so that He can teach us how to love like He does.
Proverbs 23:26, ESV
My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
What happens when we are disillusioned or derailed by a lack of love-back? We can safely take our emotions to God, fresh each and every hour.
Psalm 51:10, ESV
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
And when we love huge—and then fall huge—from the pain of rejection?
Psalm 34:18, ESV
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
What about when we fail, screw it up, or are trying to love a difficult person in our own strength?
God becomes our strength.
Psalm 73:26, ESV
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Love is messy, so where is our peace? The Bible says the peace of God guards our hearts.
Philippians 4:7, ESV
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Okay, great. So the second question is: Going forward, do you see the value in opening up more space in your heart for others? If not, what is stopping you?
Here is some motivation:
God says so.
1 John 3:11, ESV
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
We should love this way because this is how He loves us.
John 13:34, ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Love covers our own sins and shortcomings, as well as the offenses of those with whom we interact.
1 Peter 4:8, ESV
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Love expresses itself, through God’s guidance, as actionable, flowing from the truth of Who He is.
1 John 3:18, ESV
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
If we love each other, the Bible says God abides in us and perfects our love, again when our source is Him. It is clear the Holy Spirit will help us in this task.
1 John 4:12-13, ESV
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
I don’t know about you, but I want to love like Little Man does, holding nothing back, leaving no kind, encouraging words unsaid. Little Man has taught me to love big or go home. The risk is worth it because more of life gets lived when we can offer all the real estate of our hearts.
How will you trust God with more of your heart, so that you can love intentionally and freely in 2019? I’d love to hear about it!
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.