Once upon a time the children still believed in The Heart Man.* A myth about a dark and dangerous man from the big city who filled the shadows near their villages and waited unseen to steal their hearts. The children wisely avoided him, bare feet pounding the paths back to their villages. This was in the days before they grew into adults. Before other more dangerous heart thieves of hiddenness, shame, power, control, and fear stole their hearts.
What the grown children failed to see, however, was that myths often reflect a truth that we should pay attention to. Your heart can and will be stolen.
The Disastrous Case of David’s Stolen Heart?
David, Israel’s greatest king, was marked by a tender and responsive heart. Even God said of him: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”
We can see this in many of the 75 psalms David wrote, especially Psalm 8:
“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.”
We also see David’s heart in his daily life.
- He risked his life to protect sheep.
- He developed an unbreakable friendship with Jonathon.
- David wept when all the women and children of Ziklag were kidnapped by the Amalekites.
- He danced before the Lord with joy, when delivering the Arc of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
As heroic as David could be, many of his psalms also reflect a heart vulnerable to doubt and loneliness. Psalm 13:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
How The Heart Man Stole David’s Heart.
2 Samuel 11 suddenly reveals a changed King David. David uses his power to seduce Bathsheba and murder her husband to cover his sin.
The Heart Man Stole David’s Heart.
It seems he succumbed to doubt that being a tender-hearted, shepherd-king was what he was supposed to be. He sends his army to war against the Ammonites, not because Israel was being threatened, but simply because that was what kings did in the spring. Worse, and even more un-David-like, he remains behind and surveys his mighty kingdom from the roof of his palace, while his men die in battle.
Thus his sin did not begin when he spied a naked Bathsheba below his lofty perch. But rather he replaced who God had called him to be with what those around him said a king should be and climbed to that perch in the first place. The Heart Man had carried off his poetic, shepherd’s heart and David filled the emptiness with a heart bent on power mongering and manipulation. He had ceased being a shepherd-king.
How Has Your Heart Been Stolen?
It’s not if The Heart Man has kiped your heart—and mine—but how. How have you and I betrayed our God-rendered hearts? Maybe or maybe not as heartlessly as David did.
- Are you a parent who has elevated providing material things over love and presence?
- A pastor who believes programs and numbers equal connection with God and people?
- A writer who has bartered poetry and prose away for platform building?
- A doctor or caregiver who prescribes medical knowledge and advice over compassion?
- A leader or politician drunk on power rather than enamored with service and justice?
- A student who once loved learning and now chases only grades and awards?
- A Christian who has turned faith into a political religion or a weapon?
- A normal everyday human who has exchanged God’s declaration of your worth for busyness?
How to Recover Your Heart: Read a Story
What’s the antidote?
David’s heart had so calcified that God called in the prophet Nathan to tell David a story about a powerful man who killed and ate a poor man’s pet ewe lamb. David’s old passion exploded the constricting casing around his heart. His shepherd’s heart awoke.
“The man who did this must die,” David declared.
Nathan shrugged. “You are the man!”
David repented not just of adultery and murder but of becoming other than who God created him to be: A shepherd-king formed by and after the Shepherd-King’s heart.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . .
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
God used the sharp spade of truth in fiction to excavate beneath David’s defenses and reawaken his tender heart. This is the super power God embedded in narrative and why so much of the Bible unfolds through story. Story goes where no mere fact, statistic, or principle can: to the depths of our hidden, shame-filled but God-breathed souls.
As I’ve written here and here, in my self-doubt, I’ve too often traded my God-given pastor’s heart for a callused CEO heart. Though I did not commit adultery or murder, this tragic trade-off, as with David, has led me into the sins of manipulation and pride. Then I read Eugene H. Peterson’s story in his memoir, The Pastor. It broke and woke my heart. That’s who I am!
By sharing his story Peterson joined me and encouraged me on a journey back to who God created me to be. His story reclaimed my heart from The Heart Man. Yours can be reclaimed too!
In my next blog we’ll dig more into how to release and live by your original heart.