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Some time ago I was talking to a small group about the heart of the human being. I spoke of the heart’s characteristics, its value, its purpose, and the power of its presence in the individual, with others, and God. I had made the statement that you and I are created as emotional and spiritual creatures, created to do one thing in this life—live fully. And we only live fully through relationship with our own hearts, the hearts of others, and the heart of God. I then referred to our need, the personal need of the individual, to “keep heart”. After I used the phrase, someone asked me a very simple, beautiful, and profound question, “What do you mean to ‘keep heart’?”
I answered by saying that “keep heart” is shorthand for the following and much more: Keep heart is a way to say, “stay involved in life emotionally and spiritually, continue caring, come what may; participate fully in life with your hands, head, and especially with the heart of you. Remain in the struggle of living fully. To ‘keep heart’ and to have courage are synonymous. Courage is only a part of the heart, however, and yet essential to its expression.”
We keep heart by expressing the courage to go forward and then rest, rest and go forward, like day follows night, towards whatever matters so much to us that we are willing to remain dedicated—come what may. The heart moves us to persevere, to work in faith with courage. We keep heart by feeling our core feelings (please see The Voice of the Heart), telling the truth about them, and giving it all to the process; God owns the process.
I am not talking about reactions to feelings or demands that someone “fix” our feelings. Feeling our core feelings is the continuous admission of our relational makeup that allows us to respond to life truthfully. Telling the truth is the exposure of our hearts to trusted sources. The process is living life on life’s terms, trusting the One who calls us to living fully. This experience does not “fix” the struggle of life; it is part of allowing us to live fully in life—to keep heart.
Ultimately, keeping heart allows us to grow how we were born into a grown up, like an acorn into a full-limbed oak tree. We were born with a profound expression of all we would need in rudimentary forms to join life. We were born with courage—full-hearted willingness to reach out. We were born with faith—sure of what we hoped for, and certain of what we did not see. We were born working—giving our hands, head, and heart to what mattered to us. These rudimentary expressions of creation are to be preserved and grown through relationship as we face the pain of loss and the joy of celebration—life on life’s terms.
We are created to keep the heart of how we were born; we do so by becoming people who keep heart amidst a world of influences that would say withholding your courage, giving up faith, and reducing work to the labor of survival only, is the wiser course. To keep heart, we must live in relationship with our own hearts, the hearts of others, and the heart of God. No doubt, to keep heart is the more vulnerable course, and does leave us in need and in struggle. Even more, however, it continues to introduce us to a love with others and God that we would not know otherwise.