Guarded 8

IMG_4581“How’s your heart?”

I love asking this question of those close to me, and I love it when they ask it of me. I want others to know I care very much about them,  and I’m honored when they show the same care for me. I love this question.

I mean, usually I love it..

Rather, sometimes I love it.

That is, sometimes I really don’t  love it.

I love this question when my heart is in a good place, marching confidently to Zion, gaining new heights every day.

I don’t love this question when my heart is ugly, riddled with sin, faithless. Even if I am able to see those pitiful things in my own heart, I’d rather not show them to you, thank you.

We humans do love to protect our carefully-cultivated images.

We know that if we allow each other to step over the fences we’ve painstakingly built around our hearts and enter those places where wild weeds grow and prairie-dog mounds proliferate, we will be known for who we really are.

Sinners saved by grace.

You see, I’m okay with telling you how my heart is, up to a certain point. But if I let you cross that fence, you may soon discover that the promising vista to my heart is really only a cleverly camouflaged landfill teeming with shameful little sins and appallingly un-Christlike attitudes. Take a closer look, and you may be repelled by the jumbled mess you find: pristine objects of joy and victory hopelessly strewn together with wrecked articles of self-pity and defeat. If you were to ask me about them, I would no more be able to elucidate them to you than sort them out for myself.

IMG_3719 - Version 2If you were to ask me—

—as a friend did this afternoon—about my heart, I could probably come up with statements that would give an endearing and self-depracating evaluation. Worded in a way that would make me appear honest, vulnerable, humble. Wise and self-aware:

  • “This has been a tough season of waiting, but I keep trusting Jesus!”
  • “This week of Microsoft tutorials and on-line assessments is so worth it, because I’m learning great things!”
  • “It’s okay that I don’t have a job yet, because I’m getting to spend extra time with my precious grandkids!”
  • “That book I’m reading on discerning God’s voice is meeting me right where I’m at!”

These statements would be true enough. But there would be other truths I might not want you to see. Truths that might uncover insecurity, weariness, second-guessing, discontent, callousness. I’m not saying those things are in me or anything—just that, well, hypothetically, they could be.

Do we keep asking? Do we have to answer?

So, should we be asking about each other’s hearts? Should we be asking how to pray for one another? Should we be inviting others to share about what the Lord has (or hasn’t) been speaking to them lately? Should we be asking, as the Wesleyans used to, “How goes it with your soul?”?

Should we ask questions like these, even if it means we’re risking a rebuff?

Or, perhaps more significantly, should we be answering questions like these, even if it means exposing some hidden part of ourselves?

I believe the answer in both cases is yes. In fact, a resounding yes! As brothers and sisters called into community in a way no other social unit on earth is called, the body of Christ is to care deeply about one another’s souls. When the apostle Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ,” he’s referring to spiritual burdens; those inner struggles we all have as we live out our new life in Christ (check out the context in Galatians 5:25 – 6:2).

How can we do this if we neither ask nor answer the questions that really matter? If we can’t trust one another to provide a safe environment in which truest beauty can grow out of our patches of ugliness?

A whole separate blog

There is a corollary blog waiting to be written that would address how and when and to whom we ask these questions of one another. Sensitivity, trust, history, and grace are some of the factors that must come into play before we start blurting out questions to every person we pass in the church hallway.

And there’s a third blog that would tackle how, when, and to whom we answer.

But, for now, may we agree that the question—”How’s your heart?”— is an important one, both to ask and to be asked?

My mind is careening off-road right now. So many ways this discussion could go! I’d love for you to weigh in on it.

Or—if I may be so bold—I’d love for you to share your heart.

Listening to His heart in order to know my own,


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8 thoughts on “Guarded

  • melissa stadtlander

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us again. Your blog and your heart are always such a blessing to me, causing me to look in my own heart and evaluate and ask myself the same questions. Praying with you friend as you wait on Him, taking courage and trusting Him as He guards your heart, the One who knows your heart so well.

  • Theresa

    What a beautiful question to be asked and to ask. It seems we live in such a hurry world and are so self focused that the question really almost takes me back. I have noticed recently how people want to chit chat and talk but rarely really ask or discuss anything of substance. By asking how is your heart you are asking the person to share themselves and you are offering to listen. This shows the beauty of love for another. Thanks for suggesting this question.

    • Jeanelle Reider Post author

      You’re so right, Teresa. I know sometimes I am not as accessible to hear someone’s heart as I should be. Because, as you say, asking the question does indeed mean we’re offering to listen. What a gift we give each other when we simply open up space to listen.

  • Faith proctor

    Oh my. How’s my heart? Especially during a time of waiting? Well, I would much rather avoid the topic altogether, although it is the elephant in the room. I am in a period of transition and waiting and wanting answers from the Lord. Answers for directions: should I rejoin the workforce, what should the rhythm of my days look like? Who and how should I serve, what are my gifts that the Lord may use? And everyday the answer is the same: rejoice in the Lord always, be content , be thankful, serve well in the small things, guard your heart, do not grow weary, seek ME first. And, I need to remember that all through my life, He has been faithful as He was to the Saints of old, why do I doubt and think He will cast me aside now? I pray to get these things steadfast in my heart, until then, I am sure I will not see the other opportunities the Lord has waiting for me. And I pray Micah 6:8 through out the day….because I cannot trust my own heart.

    • Jeanelle Reider Post author

      Faith, thank you for your vulnerable sharing this morning. Such sharing encourages me to keep sharing my own heart as the Lord leads, even at times when I may not feel like it. How well I understand that period of transition and waiting, being exactly there myself right now. Many of your questions are my own. The answers you are hearing are indeed right from the Lord, and the “guard your heart” one is one I’ve prayed for myself for many days now. I am reminded this morning that that phrase is preceded by “and the PEACE of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” May He guard you with that peace as you wait. I read something today in a book by Priscilla Shirer (“Discerning the Voice of God”): “A heart that continues to anticipate His movement will result in eyes that are open to see an recognize His activity in the circumstances of life. Indeed, expectation is the root of hearing from God.” So keep expecting Him to move, my friend (and in the meantime, maybe He’ll open your eyes and mine to how He’s moving in our very hearts even as we wait).

  • Judy Fossgreen

    What a great question. I have always wanted to draw out another’s heart with the thoughts of Proverbs 10:5 which says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” How can we truly be there for each other if we do not have a heart of understanding another’s heart in deep waters? At Bible Study it was brought out that receiving a rebuke or a reproof in love is a gift from a friend who listens to the problem with an ear to the Lord at the same time. To give out what the Lord is speaking to us means “not leaning to our own understanding, but acknowledging Him and letting Him direct our paths.” When we know the Word in our hearts, that is the greatest gift we can share with one another in love. That also means it can be reversed. Sometimes I am in need of a reflective listener who will give me what God is speaking to her about my situation. To develop trust in each other we need to let down our fence posts, and let each other in. In helping others to do that, I shared a sin that I had confessed and was forgiven for, in hopes others would feel comfortable opening up closets and closed doors in their hearts. We then read Psalm 139 to remember how much God knows us and loves us. Only when we feel totally loved, do we open our hearts to any corrections or other ways of thinking out a problem. We truly need each other in the body of Christ—-to come along side, put our arms around each other, and really listen and love as God directs us. It reminds me of I John 1:7 “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin.” Let’s sit on the floor together and be best of friends.

    • Jeanelle Reider Post author

      Proverbs 10:5 is a beautiful Scripture to apply to this topic! Thank you for that, Judy–I love it! It takes SUCH discernment from the Spirit to draw one another out in ways that are gracious and safe and sensitive. What a gift friends like you describe are in life! I’m so much closer to the image of Jesus than I would have been without them, and I look forward to drawing closer still as my faithful friends continue to speak the truth in love, with an ear to Him. I imagine that the friend with whom you shared your forgiven sin felt very honored to “sit on the floor together and be best of friends” with you!