Spirituality for Today – November 2012 – Volume 17, Issue 4

The Things We Carry In Our Hearts

By Janice Alonso

A photo of Oliver Wendell HolmesOliver Wendell Holmes

A couple of years ago my children, nephews, and nieces encouraged to me have a Facebook page. I started one but felt rather foolish because I didn't really have anything to say. I have to admit I even felt foolish about admitting this since I am an "inspirational writer." Then my mind whirred... why not post an inspirational quote? Since August 15 of last year, each morning I post an inspirational thought for the day on my Facebook page. Sometimes I choose a passage from the Bible, and other times I use one I've read elsewhere. I carefully select each quotation, and I receive as much joy in selecting the messages as I do in posting them and reading the feedback from family and friends. After I post the quote, I usually never think of it again; they are all good, inspirational messages, ones intended to give an uplifting spirit to those reading it. However, this week something Oliver Wendell Holmes said prayed on my mind and made its way into my writing.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

While the passage is not from the Bible, I feel the sentiment embodies much of our Christian ideal. It is what lies within our hearts that defines who we are. It was what was in our hearts that created those pasts, and it is what is in our hearts today that most likely will determine what our futures hold. Keeping our hearts focused on what is right and pure is a full time commitment and often challenging. Too many times I find myself mired down in things that occurred in the past, or suddenly I find myself in a fret over things looming in the future, while in fact, these dark clouds may never even come together to produce the storms I fear. The Bible is rich with passages about our pasts and futures and how we should view them.

The past is just that: it is over, gone, that moment is never to come again. While I love to reminisce about days I spent with my grandmother or times when my now two grown sons were small enough to fit into my lap, I find my mind drifts to memories tainted with regrets.

There are things I wished I'd told my grandmother while she was still here with me. I wish I had learned more about my grandmother's life growing up on a farm with ten brothers and sisters instead of being selfish and wanting her to listen to what was going on in my life. I wish I'd written down her recipe for Lemon Icebox Pie instead of insisting that bakery products were better and more convenient. I wish I'd told her what a positive influence and inspirational role model she was to me instead of pointing out how old-fashioned she was. I wish I had listened when I thought I knew everything. I wish...

But the Bible tells me:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Proverbs 28:13

I wish I could unsay those harsh words spoken in frustration to my little boys who were just... well, behaving like "little boys." I wish I could take back some of those hours I let Sesame Street babysit for me so I could finish those mysteries... books whose titles I can't even remember now. I wish I'd kept one of those wrinkled scraps of paper scrawled with the words, "I 'heart' Mommy." I wish I had listened to all those rambling stories from garrulous tongues telling me about Superheroes, G.I. Joe, and adventures with sticks and shields fighting the fierce dragons living in our back yard. I wish...

But the Bible tells me:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
Isaiah 43:18

My mind also journeys into the future, into "what-might-happen" trips, trips that venture down roads where I am a driver who has chosen a winding route pitted with potholes and dead ends. These trips are quagmires of anxiousness and worry.

And what about all those wasted days I spend dreading things that are yet to come... most of which I have no control over... most of which never even come to be? And what about those hours that slip through my fingers when I let my thoughts become consumed by needless anxiety? And what about...

Even though the Bible tells me:

Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:27

And what about all those lost nights when I thrash around in my bed... my mind in turmoil with tangles of "what-ifs"? And what about the troubled sleeps that only produce a tired body, an exhausted mind, and a defeated spirit to greet the following morning? And what about those predawn hours when I torture my soul with impossible scenarios? And what about...

Even though the Bible tells me:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry aboutyour life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.
Luke 12:22

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:8, we belong to this day and we should guard our hearts with a breastplate of faith and love, and on our heads we should wear a helmet to strengthen our minds with the hope of salvation. Just as our Heavenly Father forgives us, so we need to forgive others, as well as ourselves, of wrongdoings. If we burden our hearts today with guilts from yesterday, we'll only create more wasted days to be remorseful over tomorrow. If we worry about what might occur down those roads we travel, we run the risk of cobbling together an imagined future chocked full of uncertainty. If instead we carry faith and love in our hearts at this moment now, we'll be able to create happier moments for us to remember and pass along to others for their memories.

And what is it that we should carry in our hearts? What magic formula is out there that will fortify our "withins" at all times? The Bible is very clear about this too:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13