Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Prov 4:23
Living with an open heart is a risky choice that takes courage and wisdom. The act of living generously can expose us to those who might take advantage. The disposition of trusting can leave a person vulnerable to the cold reality of the con. However, the alternative of a closed or guarded heart robs us of the gift of life. The practice of staying open in the face of every temptation to do otherwise is possible if our protection comes from God.
Joyce Meyers in a recent video clips said, “If you’re not willing to be hurt, then you’re not able to love. If you shut other people out, you also imprison yourself.”
To keep your heart is not the same as self-protection. A porcupine normally flares its quills when it is frightened or in danger. Ironically, my daughter recently pet a porcupine. When Georgia the porcupine was a baby, her family died crossing the road, and she was found in a ditch, alone and vulnerable. The local zoo decided to take it in, nurse it to independence, and integrate it back into the wild. It wasn’t long until they realized, Georgia the porcupine would never go back into the wild. Georgia became very calm around other animals and people during her time at the zoo. Georgia was socialized. For Georgia, the highlight of her day is when she is centre stage for a visiting group who all come to pet her and touch her quills.
The vulnerability of an open heart requires discernment. Thomas Keating writes in the book, Open Mind, Open Heart, about the practice of being flexible.
“The fruit of ‘guard of the heart’ is the habitual willingness to change our plans at a moment’s notice. It disposes us to accept painful situations as they arise.”
Another discipline he mentions is the practice of unconditional acceptance. A friend of ours wears a bracelet that says, “Love to Love” as a reminder that when people are hard to love, love them for love’s sake. This is the practice of keeping the heart by guarding against resentment.
Jesus shows us, by his supreme example while dying on the cross, how to keep the heart open to God in the midst of hatred. His cry, “Father forgive them,” is a prayer we can all practice at those moments when cruelty threatens to shut us down.
It takes wisdom to stay open when our hearts are at stake. Openness to God’s Spirit is a way to allow our hearts a divine protection while remaining in the flow of life. Then from deep within He springs up in us with hope, courage and faith.
As Scripture says, ‘Streams of living water will flow from deep within the person who believes in me.'” John 7:38