Four years ago after a series of tests showed a blockage in a main artery of my heart, my cardiologist inserted a medicated stint to clear the blockage and restore circulation.
He literally had to alter my heart to make it do what it was designed to do.
The strange thing is that I am not overweight, I eat fairly well and exercise moderately. I also had no presenting symptoms. The doctor said I was the kind of guy who never had visible issues but one day just dropped dead walking down the street. So I had to have my heart problem fixed.
It isn’t the first time.
My heart is under constant renovation. Not the one that ticks at the center of my body, but the one that beats at the core of my life. It is the real me. The source of my motivations, the center of my needs and the sum of my desires.
And that heart has issues–big ones.
I have often defined “repentance” as changing your mind so God can change your heart.
God is the only one who knows me well enough and loves me deep enough to accurately diagnose and adequately treat my heart problems.
Jesus once said that it is the man or woman with a pure heart that sees Gods (Matthew 5:8). The only way I can honestly “get” how the Kingdom is really designed, what God was about when He dreamed me up and how my story fits into His-story is to have a “pure” heart.
A pure heart simply wills one thing.
I’m fairly certain this truth was behind David’s prayer “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). He knew that there was no way he could rectify his painfully obvious heart problems.
Heart transformation is solely God’s turf.
To have a change of heart means something fundamental and foundational has shifted so that I am different at the core.
- My perspective has been re-focused.
- My passion has been re-sourced.
- My priorities have been re-aligned.
It is difficult for me to accept that heart change is something only God can do. I so desperately want to be responsible at least in part for my own healing. Maybe that is why we focus so much on behavioral modification.
It is so much easier to change what we do than who we are.
I wanted to tell my cardiologist “I’ll fix it!” But the damage was done and only someone who could get immediate and intimate access to the internal workings of my ticker could set it right again.
Heart change is always like that…it happens only from the inside.
The beauty is that God is passionate about healing hearts and making them new again…and again and again and again if need be!
God told Ezekiel on three separate occasions: “I will remove from them a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26). His deep desire was that our hearts be alive, responsive, full and free. God is willing to change any heart that is laid bare before His love.
So how do we assess and open our hearts so that by His loving grace God can fix them—restoring them to how He made them? I wrestle regularly with these core issues and critical questions to help me keep my heart open before the God who can change me.
Reality–what matters to me?
- What do I honestly care about?
- What do I truly stand for?
- What do I actually sacrifice for?
>The test: How do I choose to escape?
Vulnerability–what hurts me?
- What has disappointed me?
- Where do I frequently compromise?
- What are the weak links in connecting with Jesus?
>The test: What do I conceal?
Accountability–who knows me?
- With whom do I deeply connect?
- Who do I allow to correct and protect me?
- Who understands both my dreams and my doubts?
>The test: Where do I hide?
Identity–what defines me?
- Who am I beneath my title?
- How am I below my accomplishments?
- What am I besides my image?
>The test: When do I pretend?
The honest answers to these probings are like the catheterization that found the blockage in my heart. Once located, the surgeon had no problem fixing the malfunction.
As I openly assess the real condition of my heart–the wellspring of my life–I am allowing God to identify what needs more grace. My Great Physician works with expert skill and intimate care to repair the issues of my heart.
God’s primary desire is for us to have one primary desire. He longs for us to long for Him. His deep calls to ours. He is committed to making the core of our being pure–singular, integrated, focused and passionate.
It is the heart of the matter.