The older you get, the more life beats you up. The betrayal, unmet dreams and expectations, painful surprises, loss, and death—it hurts. This pain is what causes many people to shut down their hearts. You are surrounded today by people who are not whole, people who have let large portions of their heart fall asleep and die in order to protect themselves from experiencing more pain and disappointment.
But wholeness matters. There’s a reason God constantly summons us in the Scriptures and in our experiences to love him and live life “with all of your heart.” You are designed to live before God and others as a whole person, with the complete mix and mess of your desires, joys, and sorrows.
I love how one wild man, beat up and blessed by life, expresses this theme. About 2,000 years ago a serial church planter named Paul wrote a letter to a mixed-bag of a church in Corinth. Writing about himself and his partner in leadership, Timothy, Paul reveals his heart-whole leadership approach, “our heart is wide open” (2 Cor 6:11). And, Paul summons the struggling people in this city to also live full-hearted lives, “widen your hearts also” (2 Cor 6:12).
This is a life and leadership model of wholeness, of reclaiming the deadened chambers at the core of your being to live and lead with a wide open heart, come what may. It is risky. It is an adventure. It is how we come most alive. It is how God created us to live.
Fragmenting, compartmentalizing, locking up, and deadening your heart is a sneaky process. It often happens without noticing it. You go through some surprising pain, disappointment that knocks the wind out of you, and subtly you suppress some of what you once desired and unconsciously decide to feel less hurt in the future.
I’ve done this. Though I’d consider myself strong in being tuned into my heart and emotionally healthy, it took me a while to really see the toll that starting a church in Silicon Valley has taken on my heart. The true story is that Jesus has vastly exceeded my dreams and prayers for our organization these first years of our existence. I’m amazed and full of thankfulness. And, the true story is that I’ve experienced loss and trauma over the course of these first few years, bruises that have impacted my heart more than I knew. In some recent times of rest and prayer, my Father has been helping me see this and calling me to a fresh chapter of living and leading with a heart wide open. It’s been a call to quit numbing my pain and short-selling my hopes, a call out of self-protection and into full life.
2 WAYS FORWARD: GRIEVE AND DREAM DAILY
Wholeness means you bring all of you, all of your story, before the presence of God (and the presence of those closest to you). In other words: honesty. The only way I know how to live and lead with a wide open heart is to daily do two things before God: grieve and dream. This is what has helped me heal, grow, and flourish over the past year.
Grief is a normal part of life in a fallen world. An honest heart expresses grief to God—grief over unmet desires, sin, personal failures, unanswered prayers, painful wounds, and the daily smog of living in a sinful world. God sees and cares about our grief, and a healthy heart freely communicates and emotes this grief.
Dreams are a normal part of life in a redeemed world. An honest heart expresses dreams to God—dreams, desires, and prayers for a better future for yourself and others in a world where the resurrection of Jesus has put death to death and is making all things new. A healthy heart freely communicates and emotes, often in a child-like way, outrageous dreams and prayers.
I recommend making grieving and dreaming a regular part of your prayer life. This is what’s modeled and taught for us in the Psalms. This is what’s modeled and taught for us by healthiest, wholehearted leaders who have gone before us (just think of some of your heroes in the faith, how their biographies or their lives revealed regularly laying out big dreams and big pain in front of God). And this is what you can model for others and the generations that come after you: a heart wide open, a heart fully alive.
Today you can heal, grow, and live wholeheartedly as you live honestly–as you both grieve and dream in the presence of God and others.