The notebook of the heart

Someone gave me a tablet of notebook paper one time when I was a young child. But this wasn’t just any tablet of paper. It was the prettiest I’d ever seen. Each page had little hearts decorating it, and lines for writing. There were four sections in the notebook for four beautiful colors: pink, blue, yellow, and green. I never wanted to use a single page in my notebook. I only ever opened my notebook when I was in my safe, secret closet. Once there, I’d flip through it admiringly without placing even one word or doodle on the page.

I wish I was as careful with my heart as I was with this notebook.

Instead of letting just anyone write or doodle anything they want on my heart, I wish I had reserved my pages only for God. I wish in the quiet moments of the day, in the secret time of prayer, I had opened my heart only to Him to etch what He wanted on those pages.

Too many times I’ve handed my heart to a stranger to free draw on the most precious scroll I have to give: the one displayed on my heart. When someone gives me the finger in traffic or snaps at me on the phone, I feel as though I’ve opened up the special pages of my heart and let a stranger desecrate all over them. I’ve heard this comes from low self-esteem, but, really, I think it comes from low protection of my heart. Some of us learned, when we were very young, that we were expected to open our hearts up to everyone. It was our “duty”. Others of us just simply trusted anyone and everyone with our heart, and got some very bad scribbles on our precious hearts as a result.

But what hurts even more is when we hand the most sacred scroll of our hearts over to be written on my family and friends, and they fall miserably short of the brilliant masterpieces we were expecting them to leave for us. Even the best, most well-meaning friend or relative cannot replace God’s work in our hearts. Our best relationships on earth will always inevitably scribble ugliness on our hearts at one time or another.

There is one more way we acquire scribbles on our heart—and these the most painful scribbles of all. These are those we self-inflict, through what we thought were wise intentions, when we were sure we had our best in mind. These are the drawings we make on our hearts in a feeble attempt to fill up the promise of beauty with our scrawling, page-piercing sin. It’s hardest of all for me to move past these words, because they were the ones I wrote myself. We find no eraser on the pen we once so glibly took up and with which we roared through whole pages of our lives.

I was wise to keep my notebook empty as a child, saving it for only the best of the best. But I made one terrible mistake. I never did want anything written in it. I was so protective, I never used the notebook for the very purpose it was created.

In the same way, some of us have had our tender hearts so mishandled that we simply do not trust God to write anything on our hearts. We mummify our hearts, with police tape across its boundaries, not allowing anyone inside, keeping it eternally cold and empty. Those of us with such troubles need to look to God, the extraordinary artist of all creation, and trust Him with the pen so that He may inscribe beauty upon us. It may not be in the way we expect or by the means we counted on, but God promises to pick up the pen only for the most breathtaking beauty on the heart of anyone who will trust His penmanship.

Finally, what about those of us who already have a notebook desecrated by numerous pounds of graffiti written willy-nilly all over our most sacred possession? What then?

We must hand our hearts over to the One and Only who can cleanse the most defiled heart like the machines that soak old paper, separating ink from pulp, and create new paper to start over fresh and perfect once more.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. (Psalm 51:10a, NLT)