I love to ponder. Maybe I like to look beyond the visible and contemplate the unexplainable because I am a teacher. Maybe my investigative skills developed out of necessity. After all, one cannot raise five children without great skills of suspicion, discernment, and problem solving. Whatever the reason, I love to ponder.
Lately, I have been pondering on humanity. What makes mankind special from the rest of creation? All created things have a function; and although those functions may vary in degree of difficulty, all are purposeful. All created things are valuable; and although the value is commensurate to the need and the supply, everything has value. If these thoughts are true, then what sets mankind apart, what determines his uniqueness, what qualifies him as superior?
That which separates humanity from the rest of the created things is the heart of man. Oh, I am not referring to the organ that pumps blood and sustains natural life. I am speaking of the seat of emotions: love and hate, faith and fear, loyalty and prejudice, or hope and despondency. I am also speaking of the seat of character: intention, purpose, will, and conscience. I am speaking of the totality of the inner person.
Proverbs admonishes us to guard our hearts because the heart is the well-spring of life. In other words, the heart is the production center of our actions. When the heart is filled with joy, gladness or mirth, we reflect that light-heartedness. Conversely, when the heart is occupied with anger or bitterness, our actions and our words will reflect those attitudes. If the ‘well-spring of life’ is filled with deadly poisons, the waters from which we drink are poisoned. That which should bring us life instead causes us harm.
Another analogy with which the Bible compares our hearts is that of soil. In the same manner that the earth can receive a seed and become a production center, so can our hearts become a depository for ideas that produce actions. Hearts have the ability to grow the fruit from which the rest of our life draws sustenance. Just as we do not want the waters of our heart polluted, we do not want our heart’s crop to be filled with decay and corruption thus poisoning the whole of our life. Hence, the scriptural admonition is to guard the heart.
We live in a generation that is familiar with the concept of guarding. We have locks on our doors, security systems on our cars, metal detectors in the airport terminals, and surveillance cameras in most public places. We guard places to protect them from unlawful and unethical conduct. There is great wisdom and profit in using such caution. Do we, however, have any screening devices in place to guard our heart? Are we careless about the voices that advise us, the circumstances that stimulate us, the immorality that entertains us? Maybe the old Sunday School song that admonished us to be careful little eyes what you see and be careful little ears what you hear was more profound wisdom than we had realized.
Because the heart receives both good seed and bad seed and because it grows both kinds of seed, we must use caution as to that which we allow to be planted and that which we allow to grow. Those who eat the fruit of our lives will appreciate a well-tended garden. Beyond that, we will be able to journey into the garden of our own hearts to discover an arboretum of fragrances and an orchard of fruit that develops in a healthy heart.