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Who Tends Your Heart?

  We all need pastoring. Who tends your heart?  Many of us neglect our hearts. We never had someone care for it, so we learned to protect it ourselves, stiff-arming those who get too close to it. We learned to hide our hearts lest they be bruised. In our modern society, our hearts …
By Seth Barnes

 

We all need pastoring. Who tends your heart? 

Many of us neglect our hearts. We never had someone care for it, so we learned to protect it ourselves, stiff-arming those who get too close to it. We learned to hide our hearts lest they be bruised.

In our modern society, our hearts get bruised more than ever. Though we’re social animals, we don’t live in community. A generation ago, the average person had three close friends and now the number is down to two. Our primary relationships are often virtual. 

Good friends can tend our hearts. They can inspect the state of our hearts by asking questions and paying attention to both the words we say and our nonverbals.

In the absence of good friends, we can go looking for those who are paid to care for hearts – professional counselors or pastors.

How to tend a heart

How many times in a given week do you hear someone say, “How are you?” and you know they really want to know? You know they expect an answer from you other than, “fine.” And you know there will be a followup question.

How honest are you able to be about your own heart with yourself? A guy walked into my room recently. I know that he’s burned out and needs a break. I asked him how he was and, because he’s a can-do guy and I’m someone he wants to please, I didn’t expect honesty. I expected a stiff upper lip. That’s what’s normal.

Tending a person’s heart is like looking after a garden. Hearts need encouragement and care just like gardens do. And, like gardens, they can be neglected. 

Gardens need weeding, watering and fertilizing, just like our hearts. At my home these days, our gardens need more care than they are getting. Every day I’m reminded of that as I watch the weeds grow higher. I know I should go pull them and spread some fertilizer.

When you encourage someone’s heart, it’s like watering. Psychologists say you need five positive remarks to offset the impact of one negative remark.

Some people are set up in life to do a better job of empathy than others. And some seem to have been given a spiritual gift of loving. Others of us have to work on it. But we’re all called to it. 

Feeding sheep

Look at Jesus – for three years he taught his disciples how to live in the kingdom. He taught them how to go from consumers to providers. On their last morning with him, he had a message to share (see it in John 21). One more time, he met their needs. There was a big catch of fish and he prepared breakfast for them.

Then it was time for a final conversation with his most gung-ho disciple.

Jesus asked him a simple question, “Do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

The point? God knows that our hearts need care. Jesus modeled what that looks like for his disciples and he drilled the point home before leaving the earth.

We need good friends who will ask probing questions and really listen. We need those with the gift of pastoring to do what pastors do.

Do pastors tend hearts anymore?

Unfortunately, pastors these days are as busy as everyone else. They may put in 20 hours preparing for their Sunday sermon and find that the rest of their time is split between committee meetings and administrative obligations.

So who is left to tend hearts?

Maybe a good place to start thinking about this is to be honest about the state of your heart. We all need good friends to help us unpack the hard things in our life. We need to prioritize friendship. We need to be able to talk about stuff. 

Some questions

What is the state of your heart? A good place to start is with questions. Here are a few in parting:

Who asks the tough questions?

Who understands you?

What does your heart need?

Who do you share your life with?

Who knows your wounds?

Who helps you to heal?

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