I ran alone tonight, first time since starting this new exercise regime. As it turns out, that was for the best because I opened up. Or at least I opened up to the possibility of opening up.
As part of shutting down to God and to Christian life, I shut down my heart. I have long been a proponent of the fact that the heart makes a great servant but a terrible master, and I have advised many over the years to not let their heart and emotions make decisions for them. I have always believed (and still do) that the mind and logic should reign over the heart and emotions, all the while consulting the emotions, since they do play a critical role in making
wise decisions. Unfortunately, in shutting down my heart to God, and ultimately to myself, my wife, and everyone else, I also shut down a major part of myself and became less than the man I should be. During my run tonight, I began to pray with a great deal of honesty, something I have not done in quite some time, and I realized that one of the first things I have needed to do is allow my heart to be opened again and to make contact with that painful emotional center of my being. Life has been dully colored for me these past couple of years, and I expect that it will now take on a vibrance I have all but forgotten.
This heart-opening involves a six-fold process, the results of which I hope to see with some satisfaction in the coming days and weeks:
1. I had to open my heart up to God.
A man cannot live life fully or experience God completely without an open heart. Any relationship has a significant emotional element. No less with God. To hear His voice, to know His will, to experience Him deeply requires a mental knowledge of Him, yes, but it also requires a heart knowledge and an emotional connection, much the same way it does with a flesh-and-blood human being. So, I had to open up my heart to God again.
2. I had to open my heart up to myself.
In order to be honest and open with other people, I have to first be honest and open with myself. This requires me to open up to myself, to allow myself to experience those emotions that come with daily living, however pleasurable or painful they may be. It is true that there is a place where a person needs to follow their heart (though again I emphasize a rational pre-eminence over that).
3. I had to open my heart up to my wife.
My next obligation is to my wife, and so I have to open up my heart to her. We walked and talked for quite a while in a local state park yesterday, and it was both painful and refreshing for me. I was forced to admit to a number of things to myself and to her, and while little was resolved in my heart and mind then, it served as the catalyst for what has happened this evening. It is the start of what I hope will be a fresh and new and vibrant relationship with the
woman I married.
4. I had to open my heart up to my family.
I admit it — I have not been all that considerate of my family, both biological and legal, lately. I have been neglectful and impatient and intolerant and a host of other despicable things. Yet, part of opening up my heart to God requires that I open up to my family and extend compassion and mercy and grace as Christ would.
5. I had to open my heart up to my friends.
There was a time when I was sought out by a number of individuals to provide guidance and advice and wisdom. That has not happened in a long time, and I suspect, or rather I know
that is due to the fact that I closed up shop in my heart. I shut down emotionally and spiritually, exercising foolishness and folly rather than wisdom and understanding. My friends stopped coming to me, and I have been regretful of that. In opening up to God and allowing Him to wash over me, I pray for His wisdom to pour into me and flow into others. I want to be a blessing to others again, rather than a burden.
6. I had to open my heart up to the world.
Part of living the Christian life involves serving others, and serving others can only be done right when the heart is fully engaged and involved. There is great pain in service, but there is also great joy. You cannot have one without the other. It’s scary and hard, but it is also vastly rewarding and rich.
This is going to be hard, and I know I will still mess up. God hasn’t granted me perfection – yet. But I hope to stay the path and be the sort of man God really wants me to be. I have failed
many people over the past couple of years (not least of which is my wife), and I have failed God, moreover. Yet, I hope that God will still use me, and that He will continue to teach me, and through me, others. I share these things with you so you might learn and be reminded and renewed and refreshed and encouraged.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.