Matters of the heart have the power to derail us from all that is true or propel us into all that is possible, and each of us chooses. There is literally no aspect of life that is not affected by matters of the heart, because our motives matter in everything. So, as I have been in this process of winding down my volunteer mission experience here in Guatemala in the midst of this Lenten Safari, it has presented an opportunity to reflect on the heart experiences that have sustained me and those that have drained me. For the reality is that the words and actions of others can help and heal us or hurt and harden our hearts if we allow what was hurtfully said or done to us to get into us and if we then fail to reject that poison and sift it out of our hearts.
According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” It is where we harbor the weeds of bitterness, resentment, jealousy, self-pity, self-centeredness, unforgiveness, anger, pride, arrogance, fear, hatred, and hopelessness–just to name a few. However, the heart also has the capacity to bear the fruits of the Spirit such as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control .” (Galatians 5:22-23) It is up to us to determine which we will allow to flourish, and we can be assured that God knows the difference, for in answer to the question in Jeremiah about who can know the heart, the response was “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” That is why Proverbs 4:23 cautions us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Guarding the heart and doing regular self-examinations of the heart are essential and ongoing processes, and sometimes it is in the wilderness while God has our full attention, that God wants to do an intensive de-weeding, a spiritual angioplasty, a pruning–if you will, so we can be more authentically who we be.
One of my favorite prayers is “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me,” (Psalm 51:10-11) because heart renewal is a daily and sometimes moment by moment process for which we need the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper, the Celestial Guide who directs us into all truth, if we seek it and grow it in our hearts. Luke 6:45 states that “a good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Now, to know what our hearts are full of, we must be willing to examine our speech, and the motivation behind the things that we say and do. And when I say speech, I am not necessarily speaking of one’s use of “French” (i.e. cussing) but the content of one’s speech–whether it is filled with malice, hatred, judgment, gossip, jealousy, condescension, etc. We also have to examine the hurts and pains that can choke out our joy, disturb our peace, and disfigure our gentleness into harshness. Then we have to give voice to them to begin the healing process.
So, yesterday when I began this entry, my healing process included listening to “Fake Love” by Drake on repeat until I felt like I was ready to listen to something else, because the lyrics gave voice to some of what I was feeling. For while we have no control over what others do or attempt to do to us, we do have control over whether we choose to react or respond. We have control over whether we choose to absorb or reject the poison into our hearts. And most importantly, we have a responsibility to feel our way through the pain and to our healing. Taking time to feel your way through the pain can take many forms from listening to a song or reading a poem that expresses how you feel, to journaling, dancing, taking a meditative walk, or talking things through with a trusted friend who can keep your confidences. The important thing is to begin and to continue the process of working the weeds out our gardens and eliminating the plaque from the arteries of our hearts, because the only way to the other side of the valley is through the pain.
Examining matters of the heart is an ongoing process that we all must undertake to live authentic lives. From time to time, it may require an intensive de-weeding or even a spiritual angioplasty so that we don’t become infected by the hurt that has been projected onto us. We must feel our way through the pain so that we can be propelled into all that is true and all that is possible.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.