Journal entry 052010: Heart thinking

I have been thinking a lot about my heart lately.

Maybe it’s because I’m two weeks into one of my 40-day challenges and several of my workouts are aimed directly at strengthening my heart. Yesterday I spent 40 minutes on a recumbent exercise bike at Gold’s Gym just for my heart. I like that style of bike because I can read my book while spinning (“A Farewell to Arms,” by Ernest Hemmingway), and it requires no skills other than perseverance and patience. I ride the bike simply to burn calories and train my heart for the next mountain trek.

Or maybe it’s because of my friend David whose heart stopped beating suddenly in the middle of a basketball game, a condition noted in his official medical report as “sudden death.” David miraculously recovered after considerable effort on the part of doctors and nurses and the entire town, and I have already booked him a spot on our next mountain hike next fall. Maybe his story made me more aware of the condition of my own heart.

Or maybe it’s because my 31st anniversary is coming up and I’ve been listening to a lot of love songs and my heart is soft.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve been working on my second book which is about guarding my heart and feeding my heart.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading Proverbs in the mornings and Proverbs says a surprisingly lot about the heart. For example, Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Well, my heart is hardly at peace when I’m spinning, but I certainly don’t envy the big-muscle guy on the bike beside me. I’d hate to have to haul all of those heavy muscles around a marathon course no matter how good they look in a ripped T-shirt.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” This is not as easy as it sounds for an analytical problem-solver who tends to trust his own judgment and understanding over anyone and everyone else’s. How do I do this even a little bit, much less how do I do it with all my heart?

Or this one: Proverbs 22:17 says, “Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach.” Again with the heart? Why doesn’t it say apply your mind, behavior, plans and dreams? Why heart?

And another, Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” I tend to think of my heart as the passive part of me, the “result” of me, the part of me I’m supposed to guard and protect. I think of my intellect as the front line, the part I’m supposed to engage with, the active part. Yet, here, he says to “apply my heart.” That sounds active to me.

Proverbs means something besides heart muscles when it says heart, but it’s hard to know exactly what. Proverbs often contrasts the heart with the mind but it uses those terms in non-physiological ways. I think heart in Proverbs refers to the way we feel and think and dream. I suspect it’s a more holistic reference than the mind. Yet, there are no footnotes in Proverbs explaining the terminology, at least none written by the original authors, so there is a lot of guesswork involved.

Or maybe the reason I’ve been thinking so much about my heart is because of what I read in Proverbs 20:5 – “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters …” I remember hearing at Wild at Heart Camp that we have to get out in the deep water to know God. Gary Barkalow taught from Luke 5:4-6, where Jesus told Simon Peter to “put out into deep water and let down their nets for a catch.” Simon heard Jesus that day because he was willing to follow Jesus into the deeper waters. Barkalow said that we will hear Jesus call when we go with him out into the deeper waters … we have to get out of the safe shallows if we want to hear Jesus.

Maybe that’s a peek into why God says throughout Proverbs to focus on our heart – it’s the deep end of the pool.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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