Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Enlarging the Heart

Andrew, our youngest (now 26), was born at the end of 1987. He would have been born late Christmas Day except my wife was determined he would be born on the 26th, so he would “have his own birthday,” as she put it. And he was indeed born 15 minutes past midnight.

It had been a long, hard year. My father had died suddenly in March; our church blew up (figuratively) in June, and my career blew up (also figuratively) in October. The baby’s birth at the end of that year was, for us, a sign of hope. And so it turned out to be, after we endured six months of colic.

I can remember going back to the hospital the night of his birth. I had brought his older brother up to see the baby in the afternoon, and then returned to the hospital. My wife had Andrew on her bed, and she was staring and smiling at him. 

“I didn’t know if I could love another baby as much as I love Travis,” she said. “I don’t know how it happens, but I do. I’ve fallen in love with him.”

It’s something of a mystery. How does the human heart make room to love parents, a spouse, children, family, and friends? How does that happen?

It isn’t only through a new family member or a marriage that the heart is enlarged. Sometimes it’s a crisis, a tragedy, a trial.

In The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge describes how trials and crises enlarge the heart. Crises stretch us out of our comfort zones, he says. “It’s no small thing to take a constricted, self-centered, self-absorbed Christian and turn him into a world Christian,” he writes. Crises and trials can do that. Of course, they can also do just the opposite.

But having gone through certain kinds of situations and events does give you a different perspective when you see close friends or family members experience similar things. You understand things that you would have been limited in understanding before. You’ve been through it. You know exactly what it’s like. And you heart enlarges to embrace the person now experiencing the same or a similar thing.

Once you’ve been laid off, for example, you know what it’s like when it happens to your friend, your neighbor, and your colleague.

Sorge cites three principles about heart enlargement:

(1)  We are absolutely incapable of enlarging our own heart.
(2)  One of the distinguishing earmarks of an enlarged heart is weeping and tears.
(3)  An enlarged heart tastes of divine pleasures – it brings a harvest of glory.

I thought the third principle might be stretching it a bit, until I began to think about it. If my own experiences are any guide, he’s right. To touch another’s heart with love and understanding is a taste of divine pleasure.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading the fire of Delayed Answers. We took two week off for the Christmas and New Year’s, and now it’s on to chapter 9, “Desperate Dependence & Heart Enlargement.” To see more posts, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Illustration by Ian L via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Kelly Chripczuk said...

Hmmmm . . . this resonates, Glynn. Thanks.

Maureen said...

There's a lovely tenderness to this post, which makes it a pleasure to read.

jasonS said...

Great correlation you make here with our natural families enlarging our hearts (for healthy or mostly healthy people anyway). Tragedy and trial CAN strengthen those relationships and enlarge our hearts toward them as well, but it can also tear us apart. Apparently God allows such things for us spiritually and physically because it's worth the risk. There's a lot at stake. He wants us to have His heart for the world around us and not our constricted love and views. Thanks for this, Glynn.

Dusty Rayburn said...

As I read, I could not help reflecting back to the crises your protagonists traversed in your novels.

And then there was this line early on in your post today: "The baby’s birth at the end of that year was, for us, a sign of hope. And so it turned out to be, after we endured six months of colic."

It turned out to be hope after we endured more...

Sometimes it is in our experience of enduring more, that hope is made known to us.

Thank you for sharing your story and stories Glynn!

nance.mdr said...

Having stood in the same place as someone, the same situation, is part of what understanding is, and the other part of understanding is to have stood with, or among, others. In good and in bad. If i spend time with something or someone, i get to know it, and thus have made a connection. To stand with, to get to know, involves the heart within the equation.

I like to think about the process of "standing in the midst of" (understanding). This is what God did for humans, in Jesus.

nance.mdr said...

oh.... and still does.

TC Avey said...

The third point by Sorge was hard for me to grasp as well...I guess because I'm still in the weeping stage of my wilderness.
yet as I write this, God is bringing to mind the wilderness of losing my father to cancer.
yes, there is blessings that can be shared with others through our painful experiences.
Sometimes we just have to stop and realize they are there.
Looking back at God's faithfulness helps reassure us during current times of trial.
Great post.