by Carrie Householder
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Last February I was turned on to a book by a qualitative researcher named Brene Brown. Years ago, Brown did a TED talk that started a new conversation about the power of vulnerability (I can’t recommend it enough). The book was an extension of her talk and addressed topics like vulnerability as they related to her research into what it looked like to live “whole-heartedly.”
I thrummed with excitement as I dove in. Who doesn’t want to be whole-hearted? And if a researcher was going to tell me how to do it - even better. My left brain prepared itself to absorb a process map that would get me from broken-hearted to whole-hearted in 160 digital pages. Let the healing games begin.
As I swiped my way through the book I was gratified in my expectations for a process. Brown broke the components of whole-hearted living down into digestible pieces, and my brain was taking it all in. The problem was, only my brain was engaged. My heart just wasn’t showing up for the conversation. As I began to question why, this verse dropped into my spirit:
“Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in?” -Mark 8:17
Wait, what? "Are your hearts too hard...?" Was He saying I had a hard heart? That really struck me as ironic. I was 2/3 through first year at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and it had been 6 months of tears, snotty kleenex and cripplingly vulnerable group sessions. At this point I was pretty sure my heart was fully liquified. Still, I was really bothered. What more did I have to do to attain a healed and whole heart? My brain scowled. What was my heart’s problem anyway? (For the record, judging the responses of your heart is a losing strategy. It is never a good idea to pit your mind and your heart against each other. A house divided after all.)
I got about 5 minutes into my frustration fits before I picked up my Bible. Thankfully, I was quick to find the verse that helped me unspool myself: “And I will give them a singleness [unity] of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart,” -Ezekiel 11:19
I was grateful in that moment to realize that His revelation of my hardened heart was no more than an FYI. He was telling me what miracle He was about to do - not giving me the job. Once again, I had been expertly guided into another dimension of His promises that I had missed before. Although the past six months had been about as painful as you would imagine it would be to run a bush hog through your chest, there was work to be done and ground to be tilled. A tender heart was coming - as promised.
Ironically enough, I used to pride myself on being kind of tough. Sadly, I had no idea how destructive it would become. A hard heart would not have sounded appealing to me, but I invited it in under the guise of self-protection. And it helped. First by numbing out pain…and then passion, joy, love, delight, etc. It built thick walls around them that looked a lot like anger, although sometimes it showed-up as apathy - even humor. Subtly, I started losing connection with those good emotions. Humor had to hit me hard to get a laugh. Compassion was something I had to muster, and while I was really good at touching other people, they couldn’t seem to touch me. Soon, the less I felt of the good stuff, the less it seemed worth fighting for. Thank Jesus that He will pull us out of the freezing water even after we can’t feel our legs.
Looking back several months later (tenderer heart in place), I understood that God was doing something bigger in me that day than a personal healing. What was important to me about my life was changing. And somewhere along the journey I became bold enough to believe that if someone like me could claim a whole and healed heart, perhaps my life would start to look like something that would inspire others to do the same. What will a life like that look like? Only He knows. But at a minimum, I expect it to be overflowing with plenty of good stuff.