Raiders of The Lost Heart
Raiders of The Lost Heart
How's your heart?
Have you ever paused a moment and thought about that? Have you ever been asked? So much of who we are, what we become - the health of our identity and purpose are deeply rooted in the answer you give. Sadly, our culture does little in the way of placing much value on such things. We have all sorts of training, counseling, teaching, and knowledge available to us in this "Technological Age" we live in. But issues of the heart seem to be non-existent, until something happens in our lives that remind us that we even have one. We give a lot of time and effort to our careers, children, school, hobbies, and even the health of our physical body. The attraction of our bodies get more attention than the attraction of our hearts.
How is it that every one of us can relate to a broken heart, but the majority of us carry on with life as if we don't have one. Isn't it ironic that more destruction occurs inside of us than most anything else that ever happens outside of us. Yet, our external circumstances get more attention than the most important part of our inner being. Isn't it ironic that we will rush to the doctor for lots of things less harmful than a heart dying inside of us? I believe one of the greatest deceptions we can allow ourselves to live in, is forgetting we have a heart. And the failure to assess the condition of it's health.
The condition of our heart determines our ability to truly love. The value we place on this most sensitive and precious part of our being, will determine how well we steward it. How well we steward our heart greatly influences the outcome of our lives. The Bible makes two powerful declarations about the heart:
Matthew 6:21 - For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.
Proverbs 4:23 - Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
The nature, influence, and desires of the heart direct the vast majority of who we become. An abused and broken heart is like stone. Nothing gets in, and nothing comes from within. It is lifeless and void. It has no feeling, no compassion, no purpose, and is greatly (if not entirely) desensitized. A healthy heart with a healthy balance of guarding and giving, is like a ripe berry. It is soft and colorful, it is zestful and sweet. Someone who values their heart will thrive in most all they do. They can give freely, and receive freely. They have wisdom to know when to say "no", and yet have the maturity to take healthy risks. Most of us are familiar with the heart of stone. It has been broken, trampled, and abused. It is full of fear, hurt, and scars from past wounds. It cannot give, and is to skeptical and afraid to receive. It knows what emotions to shut off, and how high to fortify it's walls. There are many external and relational symptoms of living with an unhealthy heart.
We risk becoming people that use, manipulate, control, and abuse others. We become fearful, bitter, resentful, unforgiving, and lack commitment in serious relationships or marriage. We become selfish, shrewd, cruel, and spiteful. We become desensitized, emotionless, loveless, and uncaring. A healthy heart can withstand the storms of life, and knows how to heal when life tramples it. A healthy heart is intentional in it's desires, love, purpose, and value. So many people spend hours of their lives (and money) in counseling, trying to sort out symptoms of a bigger issue. They confuse the feelings of a dying heart with external circumstances. But seemingly perfect external circumstances won't breathe life into a withered and dying heart. And unfortunately, we can't always rely on someone else to love our hearts the way we often wish they would.
Sadly - social stigmas, lack of attention, lack of value and mentor-ship have left us powerless in dealing with ourselves. We are the most reliable cure for our condition. And it all begins with loving ourselves, taking control (the power of one), letting go, learning, rebuilding and reconnecting. Pain and bad experiences have a way of fueling our fears, that dramatically influence the idea that we will repeatedly have the same painful experience. This influence sinks into a heart that goes unattended in it's need for recovery. Which ultimately results in the death of our heart. We have to learn to break free of this vicious cycle, and be intentional about taking steps toward healing. The intensity and duration of the healing process will depend on the condition of the heart. It is vital for us to own ourselves, and be willing to take these important steps. While we may not necessarily be responsible for the pain/condition of our wounded heart, we are solely responsible for it's healing. It may seem unfair, but that is the brutal reality. No one else can make the choice for us, and no one else has the power to see the process through. That doesn't mean that other people cannot help or support us. Choosing "who", "when", and "if" you will allow someone to assist you in that process is also vital. But the most important work will have to be done by you.
The beauty of learning this process is that you will discover more about yourself, the value of your heart, and how to develop healthy boundaries that protect and guard you. While leaving you open and vulnerable when it is necessary and healthy. What that process looks like from one person to another will certainly be different. But giving yourself permission is key! You have to give yourself permission to feel, grieve, let go, "let it out", laugh, cry etc. The heart is the essence of emotion, so know in advance that healing will create emotional reactions. It might feel like a roller coaster ride for a while, but the more you heal, the more stable your emotional responses will be. The heart was not designed to hold everything in, anymore than it was designed to let everything in. The heart was created to give more than it is to receive. That's why it feels so good to "get things off our chest". To deny feelings, emotion, and love is to deny our very humanity. If we let ourselves go, we will end up more like lifeless zombies or cyborgs. Resembling something living, yet completely dead inside. We were not created to live that way.
Here are some action steps that may help you assess the condition of your heart, own it, and begin recovery:
1. Take Control
No matter what has happened to your heart, or who/what caused it, take control of it. I'm not saying to take responsibility necessarily, though sometimes you may be the cause of your own condition. In which case, it may be helpful in your healing to take responsibility now - forgiving yourself as Christ has forgiven you - and move on to embrace healing. To be clear; control would be defined as "I am not being led by the condition of my hurting heart. I am aware that I am hurting, and I will not allow myself to get out of control". Repeating behavior that jeopardizes your heart would be an example of "out of control". Suicide would be the extreme.
2. Assess The Damage/Be real
You are going to have to get real with yourself and be honest. Which means tapping into the pain and potentially digging/wading through your emotions. How bad is your heart hurting? What happened? And have you removed yourself from further pain/damage? This is vital! You cannot heal if you are still being wounded. You have to remove yourself (entirely in some cases) from the source of pain to begin healing. Some circumstances may require more extreme levels of distancing, even permanently.
This might sound lame or wimpy, and it may be awkward or unnatural to do at first, but writing down everything you feel will give you the clearest picture of how bad the damage is. If you are more comfortable with yourself, record yourself on your phone. Say everything you feel and what is causing it. In reciting your feelings, you may not necessarily be able to identify the root cause yet. Emotional overload can be real. And if all else, find someone close to you that you can trust, and ask them to listen to you. Or if you need something more professional, invest in yourself and take that step! The key is to avoid denial. You cannot let yourself slip into denial. That is like setting a timer on a bomb and leaving it in your life to blow up on you later down the road. It may feel like it will be easier to deal with later on, but trust me, it likely won't. And by then, you may be in a season in your life where dealing with it then, is even less convenient than dealing with it now. Avoid denial at all cost.
3. Freedom of Expression
Be free to express your feelings and don't limit yourself to time limits or timelines. Healing can be a long process. On the other hand, know when to give your emotions a break. Otherwise you will have a meltdown. Freedom of expression should be anything that allows you to let the hurt out - *with exceptions*
We are getting free from pain, we are not out to cause more of it. Revenge, malice, or anything harmful to another human being is absolutely not cool! Physically or verbally! You need to be able to control your actions and words in a way that allows you to heal. If you need to go somewhere solitary to scream or curse, then give yourself permission to do so. If you need to exert angry energy, hit the gym and workout maybe. Go throw rocks at a tree. I don't know what will work for you, but it cannot harm someone else, nor can it harm you. This includes getting high, getting drunk, or any other harmful behavior. These are not successful healing methods. This is denial in action, in the form of substance or self inflicted abuse. Healthy expression is good! Unhealthy is bad and will only make things worse.
After decompressing your emotions, the next step you should take is forgiving. Forgiving anyone and everyone involved in creating the pain/wound. And forgiving yourself! A lot of people go their entire lives capable of forgiving others, but never letting themselves off the hook. This is vital! Forgiveness is the ultimate weight lifted off our shoulders, and the cornerstone for most inner healing. Remember, forgiving is not forgetting or excusing, but it is releasing those from harming you long after the damage is done. Holding onto the crime will only remind you of the crime. You need to be able to get "free". Which in time means, letting go to move on. Letting go of the power that the crime has in effecting the condition of your heart specifically.
5. Heal and Rebuild
Healing is repeating the steps above as many times as necessary to get back to wholeness. But it would also include doing things that fill your heart with life. Make sure you are doing things you love. Make sure you are connected with your passion, dreams, and goals. If you don't have any, figure out what they might be and start working towards them. Maybe knock some things off your bucket list. Don't forget to balance healing, living, and resting. Rest when you need to rest. Slow down when you need to slow down. Express when you need to express. Surround yourself with as much positive life and energy as is available to you. Cut out as much in your life that stands in the way of your healing. I highly recommend in investing in reading and listening to anything that provides more insight, help, and tools on restoring yourself. But don't limit your learning to just your healing, let others inspire you, teach you, and challenge you along the way. Give yourself permission to dream and envision a version of yourself that you have always wanted to be. Let go of silly or extreme expectations. Be patient with yourself. And surround yourself with people who will speak life into you and believe in you. Avoid anything that pulls you backwards; you aren't working hard for nothing.
This might be one of the most important steps when the right time comes: rebuild what was destroyed. Employ boundaries balanced by an intentional watch over your heart. By this point you should value your heart as much as you value your life. You have to take this serious, or you will dish yourself out to wolves hungry for your destruction. Remember also, your heart is your heart! Our culture romanticizes "giving our hearts away". It sounds sweet and romantic, until we get it back bleeding, and in pieces. Your heart should be shared, not given. Don't be afraid to put up temporary walls. That's what a healthy boundary is. It may need to be there to protect you for a time, but let it down after a time too. You want to be able to receive love when it's real, and give real love when your heart is thriving. Lack of discipline and control would have us give our hearts away to those who do not even know how to care for their own. It is the blind leading the blind. It is like hiring a bankrupt person with horrible credit to manage all your finances. It is simply not wise to give all you have/are to such a person. When you share your heart, it means you have the power to take it back when necessary. You cannot expect someone to value the very thing you have, that can cause you the most damage. Especially when you may not be able to tell if they are managing their own very well.
6. Be Realistic
This simply means; no one is perfect. Expect people to hurt you, disappoint you, and fail you. The best people in the world do it. You can't let your past dictate your now or your future. And making someone else pay the punishment for someone else's crime is not really fair. Nor fair to you. Many people ruin or miss a great thing because they allowed pain to harden them. And because they never healed, they treat anyone and everyone who tries to value their heart, as the the person who hurt it. This can turn into fear really fast. Which will send you running the moment someone reaches out to interact with your heart. On the flip side, don't let other people's methods of caring for themselves offend you. They may work at a different pace than you. All in all, you want to be able to give your heart and yourself, a clean slate and a fresh start. But this time you will know so much more, valuing your heart, protecting it when necessary, allowing giving and receiving to be the beautiful gift God created it to be.
Stay desperate for Him!