Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
that’s where life starts.
Day by day, I have been praying this proverb. If you walked into my house, you would eventually notice all the hearts and surmise correctly I was initially drawn to the word heart in this verse. In their own way, these decorative reminders help me pay attention to the stirrings of my heart. However, by the middle of the month I found myself pondering the phrase “keep vigilant watch.”
How do we keep vigilant watch over our hearts on a consistent basis? When I realized how many times a day I glance at my Apple watch, I decided to replace the message app with the heart monitor app. Now the little heart icon on the face of my watch keeps me more attentive to my feelings than to the number of text messages I have.
When I made this switch it never dawned on me I might really need the heart monitor. But just last week before the start of a meeting, I thought I was getting a phone call. However, the vibration on my wrist was so intense I immediately looked down to see my heart rate was 130 beats per minute. My anticipation of what might transpire was affecting my heart, mind and body more than I knew. I was so relieved when the words of this old familiar hymn came to mind:
Be Thou my vision / O Lord of my heart / Naught be all else to me / Save that Thou art / Thou my best thought / By day or by night / Waking or sleeping / Thy presence my light*
The health of our physical bodies, the quality of our emotional lives and the spiritual state of our souls begin and end with how well we pay attention to the beats and stirrings of our hearts.
All spiritual practices start with being keenly aware of how God is at work in our lives. This awareness equips and enables us to live authentically and lovingly with God, ourselves and others. It takes courage to keep vigilant watch over our hearts. Madeleine L’Engle writes the following:
We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love.**
To that end, may the Lord of our hearts help us to always keep vigilant watch over our hearts.
If you are a spiritual director, how are you keeping watch over your heart so that you can help others do so also?
If you have spiritual direction practice, what are you keenly aware of that you can bring to your director to process?
*Mary Elizabeth Byrne, translator. Be Thou My Vision. (Public Domain, 1905)
** Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art (New York: Convergent Books, 2016), 58.