October 7: Write 31 Days: Life Flows from the Heart

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding. 
I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching. 
For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother. 
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live. 
Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
{Proverbs 4:1-5}

It was a gloriously cool, partly cloudy day today, which made the glimpses of sun peeking through the clouds even more enjoyable. We savored the warmth on our skin when we had the chance, gazed upon the beauty of each strand of hair sparkling in golden rays, because it would soon disappear. 

We were the only ones at the park, despite the perfect weather, until a father/son pair strolled into our midst. The boy was younger then my littlest, probably about 18 months old, and the dad himself was on the younger end of the father spectrum. The little boy ran around, as little boys do, and wanted to play with the cars and bikes that my kids had dragged with them today.

I wouldn't have minded a bit, but the dad was always quick to tell the boy that those things didn't belong to him and direct him elsewhere. Soon my kids grew bored of the jungle gym and swings and took off into the grass to collect things that looked like crab apples. They weren't crab apples, though, but round, chartreuse balls that smelled of citrus. There was potentially some kind of nut encased in the outer fleshy shell, but I really don't do plants, so I haven't the faintest clue. 

Just don't eat them, I said.

The little boy wanted to run around in the grass after them, but the dad barked at him to stay on the concrete by the playground. The boy listened, but hesitated at the edge of freedom and watched as the kids loaded up ball after green ball in their shirts and placed their spoils in a pile. They smelled of a refreshingly clean kitchen, although their hands were smeared with dirt. I don't know of a better way to spend a childhood afternoon. 

After a while the dad noticed that the boy didn't quite smell like a summer's breeze himself but rather a like he had a surprise in his pants, and he picked him up on his shoulder. Along with voicing gratitude that mommy had remembered to pack diapers on the way over to his car, he also said, "oh...Mommy's going to owe me big time for this one."

And every fiber in my mother heart began to prickle.

I looked up from the book I was reading and watched him walk away. Did I really just hear that right?

Just in case I wasn't completely sure, he said it again on the way back from the car. "Mommy's really going to owe me for this one!"

Owe you for what, exactly? I wondered to myself. For...changing a diaper? Honey, is that not your child, too? 

Rather then pick a fight with a stranger, I decided to keep my thoughts to myself, but Lawd have mercy, did I have thoughts. 

As if somehow he wasn't complicit in the conception of this child, as if somehow he doesn't bear the same weight of parenthood as the mother, as if somehow it's only her job to change diapers??

But somehow, in his mind, she owes him for taking care of the boy.

And as I sat there in the shade with that knowledge, I began to wonder how that little boy was going to view his mother as he grew up. Would he think that she owed him, too? Would he, in turn, think that the world owes him, as well? And what would he think about his father, or marriage for that matter? Is helping raise a child just merely a service the father performs for the mother, fully expecting reimbursement for all his efforts? Would he ever be able to see marriage as a partnership, a union meant to bring glory to God?

Conversely, how are my attitudes and actions shaping the lives of my own children, in ways I may not even be aware of? That's the terrifying part of being a parent--like it or not, your children will be affected by your baggage, by all the junk in your heart. Because you can't help but exude it. It seeps out through your pores; it comes gushing out, all red and sticky, every time an old scab gets ripped off again. They will learn how to interact with the world under the weight of it, and they will end up carrying it around themselves long after you've passed.

Unless, of course, you make a concerted, intentional effort to deal with your heart.

My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart; 
for they are life to those who find them 
and health to one’s whole body. 
Above all else, guard your heart, 
for everything you do flows from it.
{Proverbs 4:20-23}

The heart of man is a dark and mysterious place, and no one can understand it. A lot of us are afraid to even go near it for fear of what we may find. There's more evil lurking inside then we'd ever dare to imagine, but as Tim Keller says, "at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope."

At the end of the day, it's the truth--Christ Himself--that will set us free. He knows the wretched places of our soul, yet He died for us anyway. He knows the evil we will do and see and think in this life, and He chose us anyway. 

He does not call you by your deeds, your thoughts or your fears, but by your Name. You are His Beloved.

All of us as parents, for our sake and the sake of the generations that come after us, have to be willing to take a good, long, hard look at what's inside our hearts and deal with it. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, Christ is in the thick of it with us. He longs to see us be free, but first we need to accept the truth--the truth about Him, and the truth about ourselves. 

This is not by any means an easy road, friends, but what have we learned so far about the value in doing hard things??? 

We must {wo}man up and start somewhere, because our very life depends on it. In order live a Life that is Truly Life, you must guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it.


Again with the hard words in the Bible. No asterisk. No footnote. No exclusions.

As we guard our hearts, as we protect and watch over them, as we keep them safe from the Evil One, as we give them time and allow them to heal, so are we also protecting our children. We prevent the seeds of destruction that may have taken root in our own hearts from reproducing in our children and their children after that. We weed out the thorns that have squelched the new life waiting to bloom inside, giving it room to grow and flourish in time.

New life that needs Truth and Light and Love to thrive.

Quote from the collage:
The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great. And the outward work can never be great or even good if the inward work is puny or of little worth. The inward work invariably includes in itself all breadth, all expansiveness, all length, all depth. Such a work receives and draws all its being from nowhere else except from and in the heart of God. {Meister Eckhart}