“Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”
I think most of us learn to live this way for a young age. A harsh teacher called life gives most of us lessons on disappointment, hurt, and betrayal from the time we’re little. Once adults, there are even labels for those who don’t learn to guard themselves well. We call these vulnerable people “gullible” and “naïve.”
To keep our hearts safe, we put up walls. There’s a door you can enter with permission –that’s where loved ones get in to hear secrets and become knit together with us.
Unfortunately, God often doesn’t get permission to pass through that door.
Of all beings who can disappoint us, hurt us, and betray us, God –being all powerful as He is- is at the top of the list. Being a black and white ruler, an eternal judge, and the one who condemns, God is one to be weary of.
From our place of fear, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, and more in the fortress of our hearts, we think it’s better to keep that kind of God distant.
There are more reasons for guarding our hearts against God.
On the days we feel guilty, unworthy, flawed, and insufficient, we believe it’s better for God to be on the outside. Keep that grace and love and mercy that we feel we don’t deserve far away, and guard the mess that’s in our hearts. It’s easier than the chaos and hurt that comes when our hearts get cleaned up.
Praise the Lord that He breaks down the door.
Praise the Lord that the prayer we’re taught in Psalm 51:10 reads:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
The prayer isn’t “thank you God that I’ve got a clean heart.” These aren’t words we say when all is well and our hearts are tidy and safe.
This is an invitation for God to open the door to the heart –pushing past all that mess and all our fortifications- to get to work. And it isn’t easy work.
To get clean, things have to get taken out of place and put back in right order. Some things have to get thrown out completely, others thoroughly scrubbed. Secret piles have to be exposed.
In all this, notice that “O God” is the one cleaning: you and I have to trust that He knows how best to arrange our hearts, can get the ugly spots refreshed without rubbing us raw, and that He won’t walk in and out disgusted with what He found inside.
Here’s the catch: He already knows what’s inside. Long before He breaks down the door. Even before we issue the invitation. While we’re still fortifying the stronghold. Before we’ve turned from sin and invited the Lord to be our Savior, He knows what’s in those guarded hearts.
“Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.” –Hebrews 4:13
So the question –when we can’t bring ourselves to open the door, when we can’t even find it in our hearts or in the hearts of those we love- is less “God, break in” and more “when He comes, will I go before Him in confidence?”
Because He will break in. Unlikely the thief who sneaks in or tricks us into welcoming him, our Lord enters through the door, or the gate. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2.)
Like the sheep, we are to know our Shepherd. We are to know that when He enters, we follow Him and trust in Him. “We can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence,” even as He enters our hearts, “because of Christ and our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12.)
Jesus isn’t just the one who breaks down our door and enters through the gate –He is the gate. He is the protector of our hearts, regardless of the fortifications we create. He is the way by which God’s reaches into us and the way by which we access Him.
Praise the Lord that our hearts are ultimately His.