How do I keep my heart open?

heart lock

“After all the heartaches and breaks, how do I keep my heart open?”

We’ve all been there.  After one too many heartbreaks, we don’t know how to keep our hearts open any longer.  It’d be much easier to put up walls, become calloused, bitter, and unwilling to let another person in, to really care for someone again.  It’s something I’ve fought at multiple points in my life.  My dear friend, Anne, penned a perfect post about this last week and she kindly agreed to let me share it here.  Her writing is a delightful mix of sarcastic wittiness and heart-felt truth. You can read more by Anne at wordswithwomack.blogspot.com.

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During my early twenties I was lucky enough to live with my best friend.  We walked through the ups and downs of the start of post-grad life together, and I learned a lot from her.  One of the main things I remember was that any time I had disappointment or heartbreak, be it relational, vocational, personal, or spiritual, she would pray for me.  And one of her primary prayers would be that my heart would stay open.  “Anne,” she would say, “I’m going to pray that God would heal your wounds, but that your heart would not close or become calloused.  That it would remain open.”

I remember thinking that was a nice sentiment, but not necessary.  Practical prayers like “God, please help Anne find a job” or “God, please let that guy who just dumped Anne gain 100 lbs unexpectedly” seemed more appropriate.  I didn’t need prayers to keep my heart open.  I wasn’t some hard-hearted bitch who shut down every time she was hurt.  Or so I thought.  But as I continued to live life, I found her prayer to be a little more important.  With each blow life dealt, I found it to be a bit more of a struggle to continue to put myself out there to new people, opportunities, and places without holding back.  It was easier to close off parts of my heart to prevent further injury.

After one particularly tough heartbreak, I remember telling my friend “hey, please keep praying that my heart remains open.”  I had come to the end of myself.  I was ready to close off and self-protect but remembered a quote from C.S. Lewis that I had always found to be true:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

And I realized that the only way to prevent this was desperate and sincere prayer.  I didn’t have the power to keep myself open.  Only God could do that.  So I joined my friend in praying this for me.  And it worked.

I hadn’t thought about this concept in a while because my heart hasn’t been broken in some time.  But recently I heard a song with which I quickly became obsessed.  Foy Vance sings “I tried to do what I felt was right. And I know I f*ed it up sometimes. But at least my heart was open.”  I have not been able to get this refrain out of my head, especially that last line: “At least my heart was open.”  It has become somewhat of a mantra of thanksgiving and encouragement as I remember past heartbreaks and disappointments yet examine where I am now.  I was vulnerable and let someone know me, and that person disappointed me, but  “At least my heart was open.”  I tried for something I really wanted yet didn’t get it, but “At least my heart was open.”  I put myself out there in a way that was uncomfortable and didn’t see any good from it, but “At least my heart was open.”

So now, as I’m in a season of waiting and having to take risks and be vulnerable, I am thankful for this song and the reminder of the prayer my friend taught me to pray years ago.  I am thankful God has answered that prayer and continues to do so and that by His grace I can continue to say “At least my heart was open.”

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