Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
The heart is a strange place.
By “heart” of course, I don’t mean the organ that pumps blood and keeps us living. I mean that place that is no place. That part of us that makes up so much of who we are, what we feel, how we behave; the intangible that personifies and expresses us in all sorts of visible ways.
Our hearts capture the deepest of feelings; they connect with people in ways that words and actions cannot. Our hearts are what we refer to when we speak of our dreams, our desires, our longings. The heart is central to who we are and who we are becoming. And the heart is a strange place.
One would think that something so central to our person would be our best advocate; that it would be unified in its dreams, emotions, and perceptions. That we—being the one our heart is at the center of—would understand our own heart and be in control of the places it takes us.
But if this is the case, then why would Proverbs give such a dire warning regarding the heart?
“Above all else, guard your heart…”
Above all else? Why would God, given the option to identify anything to prioritize “above all else” in our lives, choose to talk about guarding our hearts?
Because the heart is a strange place. Our heart can become hard. Our heart can remember the past in deceptive ways. It can be self-destructive, or it can simply sidetrack us from the path God has called us to walk. The heart is an amazingly powerful part of our being , but it can be easily swayed. It needs guarding.
But how do we guard our own heart? How do we keep our center centered on the right and the good?
I think by opening it. Opening it to God and offering him an opportunity to peruse, to pilfer, to look and evaluate. To search, as David would say:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
How is the heart today? Is my center centered? Or is it telling lies? Is my heart looking forward—down the path God has laid out? Or is it looking back remembering the past, not as it was, but as I wish it had been? Is my heart receptive? Or is it hardened against pain or disappointment?
Maybe today would be a good day to open the heart, and invite the search.