LPNI Devotion – February 2018
Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt. A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit. Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your Holy Spirit. Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:11:14, NAB)
“Dad, my brother and I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with you”, my then high-school sophomore oldest son said, with his 8th grade brother alongside him. An unusual request, I thought. Nonetheless, I responded, “How about we do that now?” We agreed and went to the relative privacy of our family room. The content of their desired conversation: “Dad, we’d like to talk to you about your pipe smoking.” These were the same two who, in years past, fought in the back seat of the car to get to stoke my pipe when we were on a trip!
As it turned out, both boys were in health classes, and were learning about smoking. “We want you to be our Dad for a long time, and we want you to stay healthy. We love you and want you to stop smoking.” This was the reality of this heart-to-heart talk. It was full of care, hope and love.
Heart language often speaks of deep emotions. “It breaks my heart” usually means I am deeply disturbed. “I love you with my whole heart” communicates a deep connection with another. “Your wonderful achievement plucks the strings of my heart” ordinarily shows happiness. “You have a heart of gold” generally expresses respect and thankfulness. “My heart is going pitter-patter” often indicates excitement or love. “I can see your heart” suggests an ability to deeply “read” another. I “set my heart” on something means I very much desire it.
Mentioned almost 300 times in the Scriptures, the “heart” is seen, fundamentally, as the core of one’s very being, one’s personhood.
It is hard to come into February without thinking of hearts! Surely my “heart of my hearts” will receive a valentine card this year! Special people in my life -- sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren -- will also hear from me, from my heart. But, of course, they will not receive expressions of my love literally from my heart. The heart is an organ of the body (that we need to care for in healthy ways, including the use of tobacco referred to by my sons). But we regularly use the word “heart” to communicate things coming from the very seat of our emotions.
Have you thought or wondered about the heart of God? Of course, this is not a question of whether God has an anatomical heart! But I do wonder what God would say in a “heart-to-heart” talk with us? What would (or does) God’s heart say to ours?
Luther suggested that to look into the heart of God we need only look at Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection for the redemption of the world reveals God’s heart. To have a heart-to-heart talk with God means to see Jesus. God’s heart breathes love for people; God’s heart exists to be in relationship with God’s people; God’s heart extends itself into this world to demonstrate its very being. God’s heart is a heart of care, of tenderness, of compassion, of empathy and of hope.
God’s heart-to-heart talk with us might very well be quite simple. “You know my heart as you see Jesus … You know my heart as you listen to him, as you watch him, as you follow him … You know my heart because I sent Jesus so you and I will be united together now and into eternity … You know my heart as I reach out to you in redemption, care and love.’
And God could continue: “As you know my heart, open yours and draw closer to me! Align your heart more and more with mine as the Holy Spirit works in you! Reach out heart-to-heart to others in the same way as I have reached out to you!”
Indeed, an open heart in response to God’s open heart to us brings us the power and possibility to open our hearts to others as well. Freed from the concern of where God’s heart is in relationship to us, we are free to turn toward others and to be heart-to-heart with them.
Heart-to-heart begets more heart-to-heart. Empathic and loving connections between people build and build. It is born of God’s heart as we see it enfleshed in Jesus, and then rebirthed again and again in the lives of those who follow him. If you want to see the heart of God, look at Jesus! Look at those who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, seek to follow him and align their hearts closer and closer to his heart and, in so doing, reach out to love and serve others.
Have a wonderful heart-to-heart with God!
Bruce M. Hartung, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Concordia Seminary,
St. Louis, Missouri, USA