If there is anything about our life that captures my attention (indeed some days I think of little else), it is the heart. There is a clear sense in the writings of the Fathers of what is meant by the heart and Scripture has much to say as well.
Christ said about the heart: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. 12:35).
This is not the “California” version of the heart as in phrases such as “you have to follow your heart.” Christ is not engaging in sentimentality but directing us to the very core of our being. There in the heart of ourselves we create our treasure. The treasure is either good or evil. I believe we are always at every moment doing something that “creates” the treasure of the heart. We store up anger or kindness, meekness or condemnation. All that we do flows from the heart in one manner or another.
What occupies my attention is the question (to myself): “What are you doing with your heart?”
Sometimes the question takes a different form (and this is not always to myself): “Why are you doing that with your heart?”
Our strangely contorted culture only knows that the heart “sells.” Generally the purveyors of culture care little about the treasures they sell. Anger will get as many rating numbers (sometimes more) than joy.
I watch traffic on my blog. I note that a little controversy can almost double the “views” on any given day. I resist the temptation (as I can). The world has enough controversy without me adding to it.
It is clear that our hearts are broken in places, and are hard in others. A lot of the “treasure” in our heart was not put there by ourselves, but was “sown by an enemy.” But knowing that only means I am the more responsible with what I do with it.
The verse from Psalm 51(50): “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” should be a constant refrain in our day. At some points the prayer has to increase to the level of desperation: “Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me!”
Can we change our own hearts? I do not think it is possible – were we able to be masters of our heart we would need no Savior. We can never say of something, “That is simply how my heart is!” For Scripture warns us as well that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17:9)?
I am certain that the heart only changes by the grace of God. We cannot make ourselves into the image of God – only God can do that in us. Which leaves us again with prayer – praying from my heart – praying with my heart – praying for my heart – even in spite of my heart. Lord, have mercy!
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).