Many people live for the mountain top experiences; those moments in life when we feel fully connected and alive, our purpose and vision are clear and we are overflowing with hope and joy. In a day and age of instant gratification and quick fixes, it is easy to forget that the amazing “suddenly”s of life are often preceded by a long process of waiting.
Most people don’t float to the top of a mountain in a moment, they climb up with labored breaths and an unclear line of vision. Living whole-hearted means embracing the climb and anticipating the view from the top. It doesn’t mean we are wholly happy or completely content in all circumstances, but that we embrace the entire human experience of highs and lows as a gift, not a burden.
It might mean that parts of your heart hurt and ache and feel unfulfilled while parts experience overwhelming joy. Living whole-hearted doesn’t mean that your whole heart feels full in every moment, it means you are willing to experience the full spectrum of human emotions through every trial and transition that life brings your way. Even Jesus experienced the pain of betrayal and death before the doors of abundant life and joy were opened to us. So we walk in His footsteps and we learn from his example.
The birth of our second child really opened me up to the fullness of the reality of what it means to live whole-heartedly. The pain of child-birth was a labor of love, paving the way for the fulfillment of my promise. I opened my whole heart to feel the highs of love and joy that come from new life, and simultaneously felt the tension and heartbreak of shifting my attention from one child to two. My time and attention are now split between two perfect little humans who were made to desire all of me. All of my overjoyed, overwhelmed, sleep deprived self.
When I look into the eyes of my children, I see the pure innocence with which they love and trust me. I see the fragility of their hearts as they react and respond to the slightest change of tone in my voice because their little hearts are so beautifully sensitive. I revel in their innocence and am simultaneously pained at the thought that they will one-day experience rejection, humiliation or pain. As I envision my daughters growing up, I feel blessed and full, saddened and overwhelmed all in the same breath.
Why am I so blessed in a world full of suffering? My life overflowing with richness yet aching for those children that have no mommy to love and affirm them, to hold them when they cry and feed them when they are hungry. I know I am called to make a difference, to travel to foreign lands and do great things. Yet here I sit in my messy house crying because I feel guilty that my toddler is watching cartoons and eating cereal for dinner, again…because I’m too exhausted to move from the couch.
My children are my world yet the world has needs that weigh on my heart in the midst of the daily grind. If all I ever do is love my children, it will have been enough, yet I still long for more. Not only for myself, but for my girls as well. I want them to grow up sensitive to the needs of the world because I know in them I am depositing a love that will need an outlet bigger than our family unit. I know that in a hurting broken world they are called to be a beacon of light and hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick but…desire fulfilled is a tree of life! (Ps 13:12)
One must live in the land of unfulfilled desire for a time to one day eat the fruit of fulfilled promise. Sometimes you must endure the deferment of hope for a time to fully experience the joy of it’s fulfillment.
This time of waiting is the soil in which a whole heart blossoms. The pendulum doesn’t always fall in the middle with equal amounts of joy and pain, longing and fulfillment. Often times it swings heavily to one side before the tides of change come and things change.
To live whole-heartedly might mean that we experience seasons in which is seems that God has withheld from us, we are waiting and hoping with no indication that the promise is forthcoming. But when the seasons change, we realize that in our pain and longing we have sown a beautiful garden of delight that we will relish in when the storms of confusion and waiting have passed. We will dance in the fields of flowers that have bloomed suddenly out of once barren lands.
You cannot love with a whole heart if you have closed off your heart to pain.
You cannot live with a whole heart if you cannot embrace the quiet joy of doing the right thing when nobody pays you any notice. We forget that Jesus was a carpenter that nobody knew for thirty years before he ever performed a miracle. We must learn to embrace the beauty of life’s moments that happen between the mundane and the miracle. We must learn to live whole-heartedly, because that is what the world truly needs.