I recently read a question posed by John Eldredge in his book Wild at Heart – “What makes your heart come alive?”
This is a question we rarely ask ourselves, a question we doubt has much validity in the grand scheme of our lives.
We simply fall in line.
We just get on with the busy-ness of living even when there’s not much life in it.
We conform to what we think is expected of us in our jobs, in our relationships, and in our churches and just try to be nice.
Real life is forced underground and is replaced by the vicarious life glimpsed from a recliner while watching sports or movies or reality TV or worse by addictions and fantasies and any escape from the humdrum and boring existence we’ve settled for.
When life just becomes something to manage, it withers and fades away until we more resemble machines than humans.
But we occasionally get glimpses of another kind of life, a life emanating with passion from the core and it is usually in the presence of another person whose life seems to be “on fire” so to speak. If you have ever had had the experience of having your heart come alive when you get around someone of great passion then you know what I mean.
There is a story in the New Testament about two disciples who were walking on the road to Emmaus on the Sunday following the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. When we pick up their story their mood is the somber mood of dashed hopes and depression.
They had really hoped that Jesus was the one, the real deal, who would set things right and save the world, yet in the course of one day everything came crashing down in a brutal and bloody end.
As these two disciples walk, they are joined by a stranger who begins to ask them about the recent events. They are utterly shocked that anyone could be around Jerusalem at that time and somehow miss the events of that day, but as they walk this stranger’s conversation with them has an unexpected insight and clarity into not only the events of that weekend but the history of Israel leading up to that day. After hours of walking and talking they finally arrive at their destination, and compell the stranger to join them for dinner. And then something completely unexpected happens. The two disciples realize that the stranger is none other than Jesus.
The stranger with them the whole time was Jesus.
And just about the moment they figure this out, he disappears.
They look at one another and say, “Did our hearts not burn within us as he talked?”
The way of men is to clean things up on the outside,
to order things into nice little safe and manageable compartments.
But the way of Christ is to get at the heart, to make us alive from within,
to make our hearts burn within us at the revelation of who he is and how he has been there even when we didn’t recognize him.
The other day I was flipping through the channels when I came across the guy on PBS who paints nature landscapes. You know the guy who’s been on there for years with the big fro who paints the “pretty little birds,” and the “pretty little trees.” While I would have normally passed this program up something made me stop. You see Tevia, my daughter, is quite the artist. She loves drawing and coloring and creating. Something in me wanted to see what her reaction would be when she watched this guy painting. I called her over to the couch and asked her to watch for a minute. The program only had about five minutes left, but that was all it took. Her heart came alive. She was in awe of how easily this guy was transforming the canvas into a landscape of mountains and trees and water.
The moment the program ended, she begged me to let her paint. And so I did. She painted exactly what she had seen. Of course, her picture was with tempera paints and paper and on a smaller scale. As a father it gave me so much joy to see her come alive from her heart.
I believe God let me have this little moment to let me know something of how he feels when I or anyone else comes alive on the inside.
I have lived so much of life disconnected from my heart just trying to be good, nice, and safe. But that’s no way to live. And that’s not how I was created to live.
In the second century Irenaeus wrote, “Man fully alive is the glory of God.”
Just being nice and safe and restrained doesn’t bring glory to God. He wants us to really be alive, and that’s not safe at all.
Lord, help us to come alive,
to live from our hearts,
to engage the life you have for each of us
As your disciples that day on the road to Emmaus
So set us on fire as we glimpse you
As we hear your words
As we behold you
in our disappointments, in our joy, in the random circumstances of life
Let our hearts, fully alive, be your glory.