“How are your hearts, ladies?”
That was the text I sent my friend squad on Friday morning. I sent it hoping to find some emotional needs to hone into a relevant blog topic for this week. Their response varied, but my plan backfired, literally. My question to them hit it’s mark, not in their emotions, but in mine.
How is MY heart?
Oh, I don’t want to look there. If you were to look into my heart, you would see long healed gashes that Christ has lovingly repaired, but you could still see just how deep the wounds were. There are bruises still painful to touch that I cover with a smile. It has resentments that are more comfortable to sweep into the corners and ignore than bring out into the light and process. In the back, you can find the desires I may never realize and the fears I pray I never do.
Now, that’s not to say there’s no love, hope, joy, and all the good things there. My heart is overflowing with the blessings of God’s love, but my heart holds reminders of where I’ve been and where I have yet to go. I’m quick to check on the hearts of others, but do I really want to look into my own heart?
Prone to Wonder
Whether I want to examine my heart or not, I need to examine my heart. Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV) If your heart is not “healthy,” nothing else you do will be. How you respond to your family, how you view the actions of others, how you spend your time — everything comes back to your heart.
Why do I need to keep my heart? Is it prone to wander? Yes, the song is correct; my heart is prone to wander. After the flood, the Lord promises to never flood the earth again, but listen to what he says about humans: “… “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth...” (Genesis 8:21). This seems like a nonsensical statement but it is the recognition of our flaws side by side with God’s mercy.
Note that it is not that your heart can get sidetracked from time to time: its intentions are evil. It’s the very reason that “Listen to your heart!” is terrible advice. Refer to the statement above: your heart does not know best. Telling someone to follow their heart similar to me letting my 5-year-old give you directions to our house: he may sound like he knows where he is going, but truly he does not.
What does Farming have to do with anything?
I remember a college bible study at my BCM broke into a ladies group and a guys group. The ladies group read from Song of Solomon, which was not nearly as scandalous as one might expect. Our leader directed us to Song of Solomon 2:15: “Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.”
Now I am a farm girl at heart and by upbringing, Farming is something I understand. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently uses illustrations involving farming to express his message (For example: The Parable of the Sower/Soils in Matthew 13). Here, in Song of Solomon, the author does the same thing. Interestingly enough, it is not clear in this passage if the speaker is the Bride, Bridegroom, or the Bride’s brothers. Having had an older brother and his crew of friends, my vote is on that option. The advice here seems to come from someone protective of the relationship, but who wants the best for it.
So why are we talking about foxes when we are supposed to be checking in our hearts? How do grapes even relate to the bride and bridegroom in Song of Solomon? Foxes spoil the fruit, but not in the way you might think. This passage, as indicated by its reference to grapes, talks about a vineyard. Grapes grow on vines and the fruit is off the ground, not easily plucked by furry little paws. The roots, however, are vulnerable to little paws.
Have you ever planted a garden? Once it is established you have to consider things like consistent watering, bugs, weeds, etc. When you first plant the garden though, you must protect it from what we in the south call “critters.” See to plant a garden, you must till the soil, remove the rocks, form mounds, and plant these tiny little adorable seedings.
Do you know what absolutely loves soft, fluffy, tilled soil? Critters. Dogs, cats, deer, raccoons,…. foxes. They love to get in and dig around or lay in that soft soil. Do you know what happens to those tender little seedlings? They don’t have deep roots. A dig here and a nap there, and your seedlings have been uprooted to die in the parching sun.
Song of Solomon tells us to watch for the little foxes so they don’t uproot the good seeds God has carefully prepared in our lives. In this passage, it is relationship advice for tender love, yet untested by life’s battles. The older brother saying, don’t let the little foxes sneak by when you aren’t looking to tear at your tender fruit. Stay on guard. Be vigilant.
Guard Your Heart
Unlike Johnny Cash, I often fail to “keep a close watch on this heart of mine.” I get distracted and the little foxes get by me. I have to stop and take a look at my heart. How am I doing? Am I weary? Why am I weary? What changes do I need to make? Am I broken? Do my actions contribute to my brokenness? Are my relationships healthy? Am I harboring secrets?
Much like a doctor giving a physical, it’s ok to create for yourself a routine checklist and go through it periodically. If we are keeping out the little foxes, the spiritual vines in our life will have time to grow and produce fruit. So a helpful place to start your checklist is in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
How’s Your Heart?
Friends, how’s your heart? Where do you need to give your self grace? Where do you need to give others grace? Do you need to talk or write out what you are feeling and then compare those feelings to what God says? Are the fruits of the spirit evident in your life? or do you need to ask God to replant those seeds and guard those tender shoots from the little foxes?
I write you not as one with a perfect heart. I needed to examine my heart this week. Next week will be the same. There will be progress. I still won’t be perfect. But every time my heart breaks, it becomes a little more like God’s heart. Maybe that’s what my heart-check showed me this week: sometimes God has to break your heart to replace it with his.
It’s worth it. Christ is worth it.
How’s your heart?
Note: For a catchy way to memorize Galatians 5:22-23 with kids, check out this Spencer Family Music video.