Tony Bohrer: Guard your heart

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At the Lighthouse Of Craig, we are finishing up a series called “New Hearts,” and I would like to share a little bit from the first part. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not — we all have had hurts that damaged our hearts.

Cardiologists use a procedure called an arteriogram to diagnose the health of a patient’s heart. It is an X-ray of the arteries taken after dye is injected into the bloodstream, allowing doctors to pinpoint blockages in the arteries that serve as conduits carrying blood from the heart.

But apart from an arteriogram, a life-threatening heart problem can go undetected for years. An individual who has blockage will experience symptoms, but these symptoms may not seem to be directly associated with the heart. Arterial blockage can manifest itself through back pain, inability to sleep, anxiety, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vision change and even loss of memory.

These symptoms often are treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart, and the right medications can take the edge off most of these symptoms. The problem, of course, is that treating the symptoms masks the real culprit. And it actually delays treatment of the problem, thus leaving the problem to worsen.

Physical heart disease parallels spiritual heart disease.

You have another heart:

• The invisible part of you that philosophers, poets and preachers refer to all the time.

• The thing that got broken in the ninth grade when what’s-her-name said she just wanted to be friends.

• The part of you that swells up with pride when you see your kids do something great.

• That mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear and experience life.

We also are tempted to treat the symptoms that stem from an unhealthy spiritual heart while ignoring the deeper issues. But as is the case with the physical heart, eventually the root problem will become the real problem. Just as a heart attack has the potential to destroy your body, so spiritual heart disease has the potential to destroy you and your most valuable relationships.

Life can be hard on the heart because the world is full of outside influences that have the power to disrupt its rhythm. Throughout time, you develop habits that slowly erode your heart’s sensitivity. The inevitable pain and disappointment of life can cause you to set up walls around your heart. At the end of the day, your heart gets out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain. And if left alone, these “heart attackers” will linger for a lifetime and do incredible damage.

The reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it never was encouraged. As children, we were taught instead to monitor our behavior. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. We modified our behavior to avoid pain, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Consequently, we become much better at monitoring our behavior (actions and words) than our hearts.

We all have said, “Nobody will hurt me like that again” while never understanding why they hurt us. Did they hurt us just because they are flat-out mean? More often than not, I have found that “Hurt people hurt people.”

Heart issues make intimacy difficult to maintain because intimacy revolves around knowing and being known. Secrets can damage the heart because they make us build walls in our relationships. That’s because we usually suspect in others what we are guilty of ourselves.

Sometimes, these unresolved hurts run so deep that they erase a person’s faith in God. They just can’t believe in a God who would let that happen to them or to someone they love.

How are things with your heart? Not your career, your family, your reputation or your finances — your heart. It’s an awkward question, I know, but the Bible says:

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.

Do your best to handle the problem at hand not the symptoms. Guard your heart because it will affect everything you do.

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