I attended a New Year’s Eve Party last year and will never be the same. The host was a close friend and I acted as greeter to the revelers. I welcomed people, smiled, took coats, served drinks – I had done this a thousand times before with different faces, the same people. But then . . . a completely different person walked in. She radiated deep happiness, joy, positivity and confidence. She was perpetually smiling. To top it off, she had crowned herself with a sparkling paper tiara reading “Happy New Year!” Hers was not a forced or temporary state of spiritual inebriation, but permanent, flowing from an inner wholeness. Her soul radiated a spiritual magnetism, a depth of holiness, and I was immediately drawn to her. My attraction was not physical or romantic; rather, something deep within me shouted: “She has what you are longing for!” And indeed she did.
My New Year’s princess was just as excited to share her treasure as I was to receive it. While conversing, I noticed that she lovingly countered any self-deprecating remarks with kinder ones – she challenged my negativity. But she was in no way offensive. Rather, a more positive path was perpetually highlighted. She was quite bright and I asked her to explain her own interior life. Her personal passion was focused upon “giving her heart a voice” and assisting others to do the same. Too often, our minds and our lives have become distanced from our hearts – that core of our being. We become caught up in the cares of life and work while the desires of the heart (what we really want deep down) are left to fend for themselves. We often forget that many of our heart’s desires are actually put there by God and are not sinful or selfish in nature. When ignored and untended, our hearts can become filled with unresolved anger and sorrow and riddled with any number of wounds that life’s hurts bring our way.
My new “heart coach” explained that she had spent years pursuing personal heart healing to arrive at her present state of wholeness. She had received extensive prayer ministry to heal inner wounds and had even located a clever physician who was able to connect physical maladies with interior disconnections of the heart – thereby assisting her in curing both. Her words were like springtime to my own heart, half-dead for so long. Something began to awaken within me immediately. A door to an interior universe long-closed was being opened. She recommended a book entitled Waking the Dead by John Eldredge (subtitled: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive). It is a life-changer. It coaches us on how to first reconnect with our own hearts and then begin the process of healing them – tending to the needs of our inmost selves. We are then in a position to live life fully, connecting with life out of the fullness of our hearts.
In the weeks and months after my encounter with this New Year’s “Fairy Godmother,” I realized the extent to which I had manufactured a mild-mannered teflon façade to roll through the pain of everyday life unscathed. But smoldering underneath was a lifetime of unresolved grief, anger and other “heart wounds” clamoring to be acknowledged. These heart wounds are caused by real or perceived (felt) instances of cruelty, personal trauma, lack of love and other occurrences that have touched the core of our being in a negative way. In me, these wounds manifested as sarcasm, pessimism and negativity (often making surprise appearances). Slowly, I began to locate the heart within me – who I truly was and what I truly wanted. I had been distanced from my heart for so long, that it took me awhile to locate it and reconnect. I had been functioning out of my mind, creating false personalities to manage my interactions with the world. Connecting to reality with one’s heart can be painful and opens up the potential for fresh wounds. But living without a heart is not living.
In setting forth His Mission Statement, Jesus proclaims: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me . . . He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted. . .” (Luke 4:18). A vital part of the mission of Jesus is to heal and restore our hearts – to set them free. But first of all, we have to locate our oftentimes bleeding and wounded hearts. We must evaluate the state of our heart and what it needs for restoration. This requires time, but it has been my experience that God will give us extra help propelling us forward in this process. (For Catholics, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can assist us in this regard – especially in the process of forgiving people who have hurt or angered us deeply.) Recently, I met a group of recovering drug addicts. They so inspired me by how attuned they were to the movements of their own hearts. It became evident that it was their ability to “give their heart a voice” that was key to their recovery. They had all reconnected with and were living out of their interior universe.
I grew up in Rice Lake, a small town in western Wisconsin. We had lived in the area for generations and were rooted in the community. My place in the universe was very secure. When I was 10 years old, we moved across the state to Green Bay, WI. The new city was large and we were unknown. I felt disoriented and never quite fit in. We had left everything I knew and a type of insecurity began to grow. Moreover, I never realized the impact that our move had had upon me, upon my heart. I actually experienced a deep grief, an overwhelming loss of all that I had known and loved. But because I was so young and unable to process events, my loss was unknown, unacknowledged and unmourned. As the years and decades rolled along, life brought new sorrows and anger: The death of friends, relationships gone south, love unreciprocated, love destroyed. But I had learned to bury my heart to survive life’s hurts and even convinced myself that all was well. I became a type of a chameleon to get along well with people – causing no pain and receiving none. I finally realized that I grieved little when I experienced great losses because I never really invested in anything in the first place. I was no longer connected.
My New Year’s princess witnessed to the magnetism of a whole heart. Every person is like a diamond, the facets of whose personality manifest the depths of the heart. Each facet of the heart that is darkened through grief or anger or some “heart wound” causes the diamond to lose some of its brilliance. That inner radiance is progressively darkened by “unwholeness” and it becomes manifest in our faces and indeed our entire selves. Jesus came to heal our inner wounds and polish up the jewel of our hearts. He desires that we be bright, shiny and magnetic, witnessing to His wholeness – concretely attesting to the joy and freedom of the Good News (the Gospel) by our very being. Wholeness is Good News. When we are whole, we are naturally happy, joyful and positive. Our brokenness festers and often leads to patterns of sin that bedevil us if we attempt to eradicate them. Healing the various wounds of our hearts often helps to eradicate patterns of sin at their root and allow holiness to take a much deeper hold within us. And when we are whole and holy, we become very attractive to those seeking the same.
Our hearts are still knocking around in there even if we have not connected with them in years. Jesus proclaims: “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I always wanted so badly to believe this passage, but I never found it to be true in my own life. My life was anything but abundant and alive. However, now I know that it can be true for me if I reconnect with my heart and nurture it. Living out of our hearts made whole brings us a richness of life. The famous quote from St. Irenaeus reads: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” For such a long time, I so desperately wanted this quote to somehow be true. And now I know that it is true and we can be fully alive.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).