NEED A HEART CHECK? Three Ways to Open Your Heart
I know, I know. Our last blog focused on protecting your heart, and now I’m telling you to open your heart. I promise I haven’t lost it! I figured since we were still in February, we should keep this heart theme going a little longer. After all, the Bible says everything flows from our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), so it is probably worth a deeper dive.
The previous blog addressed three ways to protect our hearts: (1) be intentional about what we meditate on; (2) control and reframe our thinking; and (3) take refuge in the One who can protect us. Is it really possible to protect our hearts and open our hearts at the same time? Can our hearts be guarded and simultaneously tender and available?
What do you see in your head when you hear the words protect or guard? Personally, I see two distinctly different images. For the word protect I envision a fully decked-out armed police officer with a vigilant gaze, and for the term guard I see a black waist-high rail fence. When I thought about what those visuals represented, I realized protecting my heart could result in our putting up emotional walls, walls to keep others out instead of letting them in. It’s easy to do.
If you have ever been hurt or taken advantage of, you might find yourself guarding your heart too diligently. No one wants to open themselves to potential pain. Sometimes it is easier to turn a blind eye than to risk vulnerability. Keep in mind I am not talking about abusive behavior here. I am referring to the everyday ups and downs we all experience from living in a sinful world. There are many hurting people in this world, and we have all heard the phrase “hurt people hurt people.”
Teachers are often in the line of fire. As a teacher and administrator, I learned that accusations were often not a reflection of anything I had done but simply an overflow of unresolved issues over which I had no control. I wish I could tell you I always recognized when this was happening, but I know I didn’t. Sometimes I put my guard up and closed off my heart. I have no doubt I was more focused on protecting myself than anything else. Over the years, though, I have discovered that when I open my heart and seek understanding, there is always so much more to the story. It is during these times God seems to open doors I didn’t even know existed.
We don’t want to miss out on opportunities God has for us. I believe it is possible to protect and open our hearts at the same time if we hold onto these three truths.
An open heart is a SECURE heart.
Security implies safety, protection, confidence, and peace of mind. I set our house alarm every night before we go to bed. Although I know it isn’t foolproof, our security system makes me feel safe. I can lay my head down and go to sleep without worry. I feel secure.
In a similar way, God’s love is our heart’s security system. The Bible says God showed us how much He loved us by sending Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins so we could spend eternity in His presence (1 John 4:9-10). Not only does God love us more than we could ever imagine, He also places His love in us! When Jesus becomes our Savior, God’s love becomes our own personal security system for the rest of our lives. Unlike home security systems which sometimes fail, God’s love is more than enough to safeguard our hearts.
Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
No matter what anyone says or does to us, our hearts are secure in God’s love. The first step to opening our hearts is accepting, believing, and receiving the love God has for us! When we truly embrace God’s unconditional love in our own lives, our desire will be to share it with others.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:11-12)
An open heart is a SERVING heart.
Serving others is something all believers should aspire to do. This is not a foreign idea to those of us in education because choosing to become an educator is choosing to live a life of service. Despite this, I can’t help but wonder. Is it possible to serve without opening our hearts? Can our service become a monotonous routine of simply going through the motions? Can we serve others without allowing God’s love to be expressed through us?
As I reflected on what it means to serve with an open heart, I couldn’t help but think of one particular example in the New Testament. Do you remember when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples? Although this isn’t a common practice today, Jesus’s act of service has significant implications for us when we put it into context.
Consider this humble act of service by Jesus. First, this foot washing took place at the Last Supper, just hours before Jesus would be taken by force to begin his journey to the cross. We know His mind was burdened by what was to come (Matthew 26:39), but that didn’t keep Him from serving others. Second, everyone wore sandals in the first century, and the roads in those days were basically dirt and stone. It was imperative that feet be washed before a communal meal. Jesus saw a need and chose to meet it. Finally, while there were plenty of disciples there to wash feet, no one offered. Jesus was willing to do what no one else would. He became as a lowly servant, even washing the feet of the one who would betray him.
If you know the story (John 13:1-17) you know the disciples took exception to His actions. However, take note of how Jesus responded. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
When our hearts are open, we won’t put conditions on our service. When life gets dirty, and it will eventually, we need to be ready and willing to do some foot washing. Like Jesus, to serve with an open heart is to humbly meet a need when we see a need, whether a person deserves it or not.
An open heart is a SINCERE heart.
Would you agree you that can tell when someone is insincere? I’m sure we have all been on the receiving end of a word or action we knew wasn’t genuine. Unfortunately, at one time or another, we probably all have been guilty of acting out of duty rather than sincerity. We are kidding ourselves if we think others cannot discern sincerity. Even if they can’t, we know God can and does (1 Samuel 16:7).
By nature, the human heart is selfish. We tend to love and serve those who are kind or offer some benefit to us. The love that comes from God, however, is radically different. The love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) is supernatural. This love is described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but
rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance. (v. 4-7)
When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He did so with sincere love (John 13:1). Likewise, we are called to demonstrate a similar sincere love to those in our circles of influence. A word of caution. Don’t think you can will yourself to have a sincere heart. It isn’t possible. A sincere heart is ONLY possible when we are secure in God’s love through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is important for me to do a heart check every day! What about you? Is your heart secure, service-driven, and sincere? If not, it’s time to join God in making a change. An open heart, full of God’s love, is our calling.
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” (John 13:34-35)