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Drawing the Heart

My heart totally disappointed me. In first grade, I drew a heart on red paper for Valentine’s Day. The next day I found it displayed on the wall, with others far better than mine, and was embarrassed that everyone saw it. My heart was pitifully thin and narrow. Somehow, I just could not get the line to arch up and out before it came down to the point. In fact, my first attempt was so poor that I drew a second line on each lobe with that fat, clumsy crayon. My failure was double-fold.

By the age of five, I had already recognized what Pascal called the “God-shaped vacuum” in my heart and had asked God to fill it. I asked Jesus to come into my heart. Even so, I felt a need to please Him through achieving and was performance-driven even from a young age. Any “imperfectly” completed assignment, like that drawing, irritated me.

Even a Christian who loves God and desires to be obedient recognizes the truth of what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “The line between good and evil does not run through the human race, but through the human heart.” Pride can so easily puff up the heart, bloating it out of a healthy shape. Perfection, sought or attained, sometimes serves evil ends.

In the midst of my misguided and unneeded efforts to please God through performance, He kept sending me His grace-filled “I love you” valentines. People came into my life who loved me just as I was—weaknesses and all. During my high-school years, Papa Joe, my “adopted” father, always gave me a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day—just as he did his own four daughters. The “adopted” girl experienced the acceptance of the Father.

Temptations, desires, and even the almost-desperate need for love can slice away at a heart; it can become divided, ill-shaped and uneven—like the one I drew as a child. David in Psalm 86:11, cried out, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” As I matured, I prayed more and more for such a heart.

A quote I found years later solidified my understanding of the kind of perfection I needed to pursue. Pastor Vance Havner said, “God is on the lookout for those with hearts perfect toward Himself. He is not a talent scout looking for somebody strong enough or good enough. He is looking for someone with a heart set on pleasing Him and an eye single to His glory. He will do the rest.” When our hearts are set on loving God, He takes care of “the rest,” and we can finally let go of controlling the shape of our lives.

Years past first grade, I learned how to fold a red sheet of paper in half, draw the right side of the heart carefully, cut it out, and open up a whole, balanced, beautifully plump heart. I realized that carefully defining one side of my heart through love and obedience to God resulted in reflecting the beauty and perfection of Jesus on the other half—my life.

The Bible talks much about the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The Psalmist pleaded, “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2). And, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).

What about the peoples of the earth? How will they truly understand their hearts—hearts aching to find love, freedom, and peace? Who will tell them of the Creator who fashioned the first heart: full, red, beating and bursting with love for Him? Only Scripture can perfectly “draw” the condition of the human heart and answer its cries. Oh, how people need God’s Word
—in their heart language!