An Enlarged Heart
In the physical realm, an enlarged heart is a cause for concern. It can be life threatening. However, spiritually speaking, an enlarged heart is preferred and actually the pathway to life. The longest psalm of the Hebrew psalter is a beautiful acrostic poem about the Word of God. It expresses a love and a reverence for the Word of God because it leads one to know God and walk with Him and in His ways. It is in that context that we find an interesting statement:
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! Psalm 119:32
The idea is that when our hearts are enlarged, we run after God’s commands. His commands are His ways, an expression of His loving character. And so, by extension, we are running after Him. In running, there is a sense of abandon. When we run after something, it involves using all of our available physical resources. The picture here is of running after God with all that we are … there is nothing withheld.
Running is a picture of freedom … the freedom to love God without any barriers and to love others deeply. Hebrews 12:1-2 paints this picture as well: “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Are you running? Does your heart feel big? Do you sense that deep capacity to trust God and love the unlovable? Or, does your heart too often feel small?
There are several things assumed in these words from Psalm 119. First, we can actually be small hearted. In fact, it would be fair to say that without God’s involvement, we will be small hearted. Second, a small heart can hold us back from a life of abandon to God and His ways.
What leads to having a small heart? Think of it this way … we are relational beings and when we experience hurt and disappointments, we have a tendency to protect our hearts. When we get hurt, we frequently make promises that we believe will protect us. For example, we promise that we will never be interpersonally vulnerable because of a betrayal that occurred. So, we erect these “walls” which we believe will protect but they simply isolates us and shrink our hearts. When we protect ourselves from others, we consequently protect ourselves from God as well. As an old friend used to say, “You can’t shut down just a part of your heart.” A wall is a wall.
The writer of Proverbs agrees with this sentiment in Proverbs 18:1, 10-11: Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city and like a high wall in his imagination.
The Psalmist declares that it is God who enlarges the heart, who takes away those protective walls. So, how do we open ourselves to His transforming influence? How do we put ourselves in a place where we open ourselves to the expanding influence of the Spirit of God?
The verses in Psalm 119 which precede verse 32 share several insights about the posture of one who is opening themselves to God. First, the writer says “my soul clings to the dust” and “my soul melts with sorrow.” There is a recognition of his poverty of spirit … from both hurts done to him as well as the fragile nature of his interior life. This is expressed in the phrase: “when I told of my ways. Second, we read the words: “put false ways far from me.” Following the recognition of false ways is the relinquishing of those ways. Finally, we see a restfulness as the psalmist entrusts Himself to God’s word and His ways: “I will meditate,” “I set,” and “I cling.”
Let me suggest three things … they are simple and yet can lead us through the complexities that are often present in our hearts:
- Recognize the walls. They are often most recognizable in the form of anxiety, insecurities, or the desire to control. What are the sorrows of your heart? What are the ways that you build walls? Are there promises that you made from childhood?
- Relinquish the promises that led to the walls. Confess that these walls are not protecting you but isolating you.
- Rest in the truth that He is enough. That He protects and leads and guides. We realize these truths as we meditate on Him and cling to Him. As we recognize and relinquish, there is a space that is opened in our hearts. It can feel lonely or empty but if we feel those things, that space becomes open for His love and grace.
Prayer exercise: prayerfully walk through these three elements. It is slow at first but can become a pattern that leads more quickly to resting in Him.