To the Hearts in Hiding

Dear invested performer,

How’s your heart doing?

And why does that question scare the mess out of everyone?

It’s not just you, ya know. Everyone gets nervous to some degree when it comes to the heart. But have you ever thought about why? Why so much pressure about keeping it safe from those who would harm it? Why so much emphasis on protecting it from damage and noticing the passions within it? Why does no one worry about my kidneys with the same urgency?

The truth is, nothing else so clearly reflects who we really are like our hearts. What brings us pure bliss and what frustrates us to the core can be found there. Whatever we treasure there will be what motivates our actions and decides what our intentions are in every act and every word that comes from us. Our hearts are where we feel the heaviest emotions and carry the deepest pain. That’s the most passionate part of us and where we find our uniqueness. Someone can use your physical kidney if they needed a transplant, but your figurative heart only makes sense if it’s inside of you. So yeah, in a world where the most important thing in life is to find out who you are and live out your purpose, I’d say taking care of the source of everything that makes you you would be quite high on the priority list. So if our hearts are obviously of immense significance to us and to living life well, then why want to hide them so badly? Why are we often so closed off about them and so unwilling to be honest about all the treasures we hold within them?

Because truly the most important part of our hearts is that whatever we deem most important inside them is ultimately what we value most; in other words, what we worship. Worship doesn’t mean creepy humming and wearing a dark cloak and bowing to a statue. Worshipping something/someone is putting value on it/them. It’s saying that is the most important thing in your life and your heart loves it more than anything else. And if what you value more than anything else does not belong in that position, you can feel it. It feels like guilt, and it feels like shame, and it feels like it needs to be hidden from anything and anyone who might bring it out into the open.

And that makes perfect sense, you know. You’re not crazy. You’re not the only one. Not even close. You’re not a fake Christian for loving Jesus but having other things taking up too much space in your heart. But you definitely won’t be a very impactful one until you clean it all out. I understand the instinct is to hide your heart problems and just keep on living right on the outside, but it’s truly for nothing if your heart isn’t right.

But can I just ask why are there other things taking up space in that precious heart of yours? How did those things get so high up on the priority list in the first place? How can that happen when your mind knows very well that the rightful owner of the highest position in your heart belongs to God?

I think that’s exactly it. You know in your mind, but that isn’t enough. It has to go deeper than that to effect your desires and your passions. It doesn’t effect who you are if it never reaches your heart. You can know in your mind that God says you should keep your body pure until marriage, but have no motivation in your heart to obey Him. You can learn in church service that God says to honor your mother and father, but have no passion from your heart to fuel that motivation you need to actually do it. And really that motivation will never come if you continue keeping the Lord at arms length.

It’s so easy to learn in our minds how to be a Christian, but never let our hearts truly experience live-giving change. It’s obvious that our hearts are fragile, and valuable, and worth protecting, but if you’re anything like me, then you might reach the place of holding onto your heart too strongly. Of gripping it so tightly, keeping it so safe from damage, that nothing truly beautiful can reach it, either. The fear of letting in pain is keeping you from letting in love. You can’t stand the thought of opening yourself up to change, or worse, to honesty about what you really worship.

And I truly believe that’s innate. That we naturally are concerned about what happens to our heart because a power bigger than ourselves has placed that sense of importance inside of us on purpose. This power is God, and as the Creator of the Universe, He can absolutely be trusted to know what’s important and what’s not. And I think that part is acceptable to most of us. We can agree that God gave you your heart and has even impressed upon you how precious it is. But when it comes to trusting Him with that heart, everything gets messy and stressful and terrifying and enormously resistant. And that makes sense, too, given how important we know that it is. Especially if you don’t know Him very well, of course trusting your most prized possession with a stranger would be frightening to say the least.

But what about those of us who do? What about the ones who say we know God and have allowed Him to come into our heart, but still don’t want to trust Him with it? I think this is where our acting careers take off. To whoever realized that it’s “easier” to just learn the role of a Christian and make sure we look the part on the outside, you’re the worst. Because now so many of us have been doing this, and for so long, too, that we can barely even tell we’re acting anymore. We’ve gotten so caught up in making sure we look like we’re doing all the right things, that we don’t even know why we should be doing the right things in the first place. And when you don’t have a good reason to be doing something, naturally, it’s extremely difficult to keep doing it.

So we fail. And we’re guilty. We’re not sure why, but we are. So we do some more good things to make ourselves feel better. Because we guess that’s what everyone seems to do. But it doesn’t work. And we fail again. And we see those around us who are so godly and never seem to fail and we feel even worse. And now we don’t fit in with them anymore. And now it’s more comfortable to fail. Because there’s no pressure to measure up in sin. Sin doesn’t require you to be good enough, but rules and commandments do. But you’ve already learned all the right things from church and developed this image of being a good Christian and you don’t want to lose that positive attention, so even though you think the rules are stupid and pointless and not at all what you want to be doing, you try your hardest to at least make it look like you’re good at living the Christian life.

But how’s your heart doing?

And why does that question scare you more now than before?

I think a major reason for the guilt in the invested performer’s “Christian” life is because you can feel that God is worthy to be obeyed, but you don’t understand or agree with His commandments. First, I think it’s really important to realize that God’s commandments are in place because He loves us enough to give us direction and guidance in this crazy life. He created everything; all of it. He’s the designer of the game, and so naturally He is the One we would look to for instructions on how to play it properly. The best possible outcome will come from following the directions of the One who invented it all in the first place. It just makes sense.  We all want guidance and direction in life so badly, and He gives it directly in His word. And it isn’t from a need for power or authority over us, it’s out of love. The more you get to know your Creator, the more you see that everything about Him stems from His insane and uncontainable love. Everyone sees the word “obey” and immediately is turned off because their pride tells them the idea of surrendering to someone else’s idea for your life is absolutely ridiculous. But your pride also tells you that you’re the author of your own life and your way is the best way of living, but we already agreed on who holds that position in this universe… And if it makes so much sense for God to hold that position in the universe then does it not make perfect sense for Him to hold that same position in your own personal universe? Is it not the perfect example of where the Lord belongs in your heart?

To not love any other god before God is not the most important commandment just because God wants our love. Of course He does, but He also loves us enough to warn us. He drew the whole map, He knows where all the pits and valleys are. He knows that when we let something else take His place as the first position in our heart, we’re looking to the wrong thing for direction. We’re letting the wrong thing lead us. The wrong thing is motivating our actions and being reflected in our words. And when we allow for something besides the Lord to be first in our hearts, He knows it leads to sin. Sin is going against God’s commands, and it breaks His heart. He’s heartbroken not because He isn’t being obeyed as the all-powerful supreme being, but because He knows it leads us down the wrong path in life; the path that gets further and further from Him with each step. He knows that sin is the thing that will bring the exact destruction and pain and damage to our hearts that we’re so afraid of. But His love for you outweighs the risk of His heartbreak, so He chases after you anyway. He goes out of His way to direct you and help you anyway. Don’t you see? God hasn’t burdened your life with commandments to ruin all your fun that you better keep or you’re in big trouble. No! He has gifted us with help in this life; with guidance on how to walk in the true joy and peace that our hearts long for.

So to the ones who are invested in their Christian performance, who are working hard to hide their hearts, who are holding God at arm’s length, I need you to stop where you are, and

e   x   h   a   l   e.  

Whether you’re hiding your heart out of fear of it being broken, or out of feelings that tell you you’re not worthy of being loved for who you truly are, or out of shame from what you’ve allowed into your heart that doesn’t belong there, let me just speak to that carefully and uniquely knitted together heart of yours: God is safe to be trusted with your whole heart. 

Invested actor, I need to be honest with you. You’ve been reapplying your stage makeup so much that it’s starting to irritate your skin; you’ve been going through so many costume changes that your clothes are starting to rip; if you keep running lines over and over like this, you’re going to lose your voice. Whatever reason you have for wanting to fake it until you make it isn’t good enough. Your heart is desperate for something deep and life-giving and you know it. No amount of good things you do can mask that emptiness. Maybe the people around you are fooled, but God sees you. He doesn’t care about the other stuff like He cares about your heart. All those reasons you have to value your heart and protect it so much? Yeah, God has them too. You think you have reason to keep your heart from harm? Imagine how much more invested is the One who took the careful time and energy to create it with such purpose. He is the expert in taking proper care of it.

Yes, I know you have your reasons for keeping your heart hidden, but can I just tell you that God sees it anyway? You might not acknowledge what’s inside it, but the Lord does. He sees past everything and looks right at your heart, every time, always. He sees you when no one else does. He knows what’s truly going on with you, but never rejects you. Can we let that sink in? He literally knows who you truly are, even the parts you’re ashamed of and don’t talk about. He fully knows you – all the good and all the bad – and STILL loves you. You can never stray too far from His reach. You can never offend Him so much that He’ll never talk to you again. You can never hurt His feelings enough to stop Him from forgiving you. You can never insult His creativity enough to make Him stop gifting you with purpose. He’s in relentless pursuit of you. Not the hard, shiny plastic surface of you that you show to everyone else, but the real you. Your core – what drives all your thoughts – the source of your actions – the reason behind your words – where everything you do flows from. That. Is what the Author of Life is concerned with. The inner depths of YOU.

Whatever false hope you’ve been clinging to is not enough and you can feel it. The godly people around you are not enough to fill you. You are always responsible for your own relationship with God. You are always as close and as honest and as passionately pursuing Him as you want to be. Because that’s the other part of this – God knows exactly how to live the best possible life, but he NEVER forces you to listen to Him. He loves you too much to not let you choose. But you better believe that while you’re going back and forth debating whether you want to fully trust Him and be honest about your messy heart or not, He is on the other side relentlessly chasing after you without a single doubt that you’re worth it every moment of every day; constantly drawing you to Himself; putting in the careful detailed work required to capture your mind and heart, because He is that crazy, madly, deeply, truly, unconditionally in love with you. All of you. The entire you. The raw you.

There’s no other love like that. It’s the exact love your heart is desperate for. That kind of love deserves the #1 spot in your heart. It deserves its very own, personal, devoted, and honest relationship. Won’t you let Him in closer?

Today, I’m not just praying for you, but I’m accepting and believing the Truth with you.

Lord, thank you for seeing me and loving me anyway.  My heart is Yours. 

Love,

The Clay


Scripture:

  • Psalm 33:15
  • Luke 12:6-7
  • Psalm 32:8
  • Exodus 20:3-6
  • Psalm 27:8
  • Psalm 37:4
  • Psalm 73:22-26
  • Psalm 139:1
  • Psalm 139:13-14
  • Proverbs 4:23
  • Matthew 22:36-38

Songs:

  • “King of My Heart” – Bethel Music
  • “Out of Hiding” – Steffany Gretzinger
  • “How Beautiful” – Mosaic MSC
  • “You Know Me” – Steffany Gretzinger – Bethel Music
  • “Here’s My Heart” – Lauren Daigle
  • “We Dance” – Steffany Gretzinger – Bethel Music
  • “Like Incense/Sometimes By Step” – Hillsong Worship
  • “Have It All” – Brian Johnson – Bethel Music
  • “Heart Abandoned” – Kristian Stanfill – Passion
  • “I Love You Lord/Passion – Acoustic/Medley” – Hillsong Young & Free
  • “Nothing Without You” – Will Reagan – United Pursuit
  • “Running to You” – Mosaic MSC
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