People who have hearts with closed doors make powerful people with no true presence. People who have hearts with open doors make people of presence who are very empowered. People with closed hearts are stuck in survival, isolating themselves from being affected again because of previous wounds. They are controlled by their pasts. People with open hearts are free to live fully, willingly risking their hearts in faith, hope, and love in spite of past heartbreak, or even, because of past heartbreaks.
Control and love make a grotesque couple. The grasp for control found in people who are just surviving with closed hearts is in continuous conflict with the expression of true presence that allows faith, hope, and love to have a full impact in their own and others’ lives.
People who have presence of heart have had the same inevitable experiences of wounds and sorrows in them as people with closed hearts. No one alive escapes life on life’s terms. However, people of presence live fully again, with all of the risks.
Being fully alive does mean tears, embarrassment, toxic shame, gut wrenching hurt, anger, questions of all kinds, struggles, need for forgiveness, and the need to forgive, neediness, vulnerability, accepting ourselves as desirous of life, and facing absolute tragedy. However, it also means laughter from deep within, the courage to stand in belief, and closeness to others and God. It also means times of extraordinary fulfillment and joy, and love, which makes the pain worth the pain.
Mainly, presence means staying alive in heart; not separating oneself from who God has created. In fact, the word for separation from ourselves as image bearers of God in New Testament Greek is mainomai, which translates into the English word maniac or insane.
We become maniacs for good reason, of course. But when the time comes for us to be whole again, most of us have gotten accustomed to survival and its profit of protection. As a result, we resign ourselves to life being an experience of half-measures instead of total heart commitment.
If we are good at performing (acting out of the false or protective self), we might get a great pension, a watch, a plaque, a building with our own name on it, or an alabaster jar of perfume (Luke 7: 36-50). The performance, however, does not make a life. It makes a prostitute of whom God made to live in liberty. This liberty is freedom from the tyranny of survival that forces us to live isolated from how we were created. Even more, it is the freedom to live who as we were created to become.
Giving our hearts to the process of living starts by risking our own confusing struggles and true feelings with someone who has open doors into their own heart. People who are hurt need to go to people who know hurt themselves and the process by which they continue to heal. I say, “continue to heal,” because life will always hurt if we live it well.
People who have sadness need people who know loss and the gift of acceptance, who have found ways to keep on living until they feel alive again. People who have fear, need people who know how to live in fear, i.e., people who trust help and have allowed their own fear to become faith. On and on it goes like these examples.
We need people who know redemption because they have known worthlessness; people who know replenishment because they have known emptiness; people who know restoration because their own storehouses of sustenance have been depleted.
These people are very present in heart. They have faith because they had it returned to them, and they trust hope again because they have been restored to it, and they love deeply because they have been loved deeply again. They give mercy and understanding because they have received mercy and understanding. They know the paradox of gratitude because of what they once did not have. They pass forward what was given to them. They even knock on doors of closed hearts because their own hearts were once closed. They are present, and empowered. They are powerfully present.