Matters of the Heart

“You’re sure to do impossible things if you follow your heart!” “Follow your heart!” “What does your heart tell you?”

As a parent, I am looking back on movies I watched as a child with an entirely new perspective. Lately I’ve been struck by how often the heart is mentioned in Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks movies. The constant advising to follow one’s heart is suddenly more noticeable to me know that I am screening for my kids. Perhaps it’s my aging wisdom. (Pardon me as I adjust glasses and fold white ‘deployment hairs’ under one with more color.)

Join me in a critical examination of Disney’s Thumbelina. After a song and dance routine where a bird instructs Thumbelina to follow her heart (presumably to the Fairy Prince, love, and a happily ever after) she proceeds to go on a journey. However, each time she is set in the right direction toward the Veil of the Fairies it is because the bird asked for directions, diligently sought it out, and led her there personally (after injury and near-death). Her heart didn’t get her there- a guide did. Following her heart got her kidnapped, made her doubt her beauty and self-worth, and led her to friendly advice to marry a mole for money (which she finally decided against at the altar.) As she stands in the ice-covered Veil of the Fairies with an insistent bird who is convinced that he has successfully led Thumbelina to where her heart desires, she covers her ears with her hands, declares he is wrong, and that her beloved Prince is dead. Immediately he flies in quite alive, sweeps her off her feet, gives her wings, and marries her. Well, thank goodness she followed her heart. (Eye roll) It could be worse. Scuttle can’t even make out a heartbeat.
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Listen. “What does your heart tell you?” Mine says…bump bump, bump bump. May I point out that the heart can break, bleed, burn, flutters, attack, murmur, leak and stop? Maybe it’s my Tums talking, but my heart isn’t keeping me awake at night with guidance and instruction.

The heart, however, is of great importance because it is the seat of the emotions. Mark Lowry, one of my favorite comedians has a skit I adored in the early 90s. He points out that in other parts of the world the seat of the emotions lie elsewhere. Love notes may read, “You make my liver quiver” or “I love you with BOTH my kidneys.” Then the kicker- in ancient Israel the seat of the emotions was the bowels. Billy Ray Cyrus wouldn’t have even been a one-hit-wonder with that one. No one loves achy-breaky-bowels.

My Bowels Will Go On? TMI, Celine. Unbreak My Bowels, Tony Braxton? Total Eclipse of the Bowels?   Songs from the Bowels… not the same as Songs from the Heart. I’ll stop there. I’m already deeply moved.

Yet the heart is of utmost importance, as it was in Ancient Israel. A little research from The Exhaustive Concordance (we are nothing if not educational on this blog) shows that the bowels are actually mentioned by name in Scripture only 4 times. The Heart however, has 570 mentions in the forms of heart, brokenhearted, disheartened, fainthearted, heartless, kindhearted, simple-hearted, stouthearted, stubborn-hearted, wholehearted, and wholeheartedly. “Heart’s” gets 4 more and Hearts racks up another 207 mentions. Two of the most memorized verses concerning the heart are, in fact, in the Old Testament.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Ouch. This is the seat of the emotions? Now what?

Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I don’t know about yours, but my heart has changed tremendously over the years. If I had always followed it, I’d be in a world of hurt. Let’s return to Scripture.

 Matthew 22:35-38: “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. “

The Greatest Commandment involves the heart, but not the heart alone! Jesus called us to love God not just with our hearts, but with our souls and our minds. Each one must be specifically devoted, which implies they turn away. I am personally thankful that the bowels, liver, and kidneys are not mentioned.

The Bible says that King David, a man after God’s own heart, penned the following after realizing he had chosen to turn his heart to ungodly desires:

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

The word ‘create’ by the way, is the word ex nihilo. It’s the same word as is used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth…out of nothing. God doesn’t create a new heart by fixing up something old and messed up- he totally creates something new. If the heart can be set after God and yet need to be recreated and renewed, I’d say it is not fit for blind devotion.

Thank goodness that “God knows your heart”- Luke 16:15. The heart is truly remarkable. According to Scripture, it can hide the Word of God.   It can desire, be troubled, be filled, be purified with faith, be ruled by Christ’s peace, be filled with joy, be encouraged, grow faint, make room for others, and be led astray.  The heart is crucial and valuable- it keeps us alive. It is a driving force, a life-giver, and a source of good things. Yet, I can’t recall a single instance where the heart alone led someone to a goal. It takes more than just the heart. The most evident thing I see from a perusal of the scriptures about the heart is that it does the following, not that it should be followed blindly. If we follow our heart, are we not following what our heart desires? If what we want changes daily, where will it lead us?

My son had a physical today. He squirmed and fought as the nurses tried to put the stethoscope to him. I know the feeling, my son. A key factor to determining our health is listening to our heart. I realize my heart is due for an examining. I will do that tonight as I grab a hairbrush and sing heart-related love ballads…and giggle when I change “heart” to “bowels”.

“Listen to your heart when He’s calling for you…”

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