“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life,” wisely advises the psalmist. Heart keeping begins the moment a baby is born, before the child is able to do any heart keeping of its own. Good mothers and fathers know this and begin from the first day surrounding the baby with soothing sounds, stimulating movements and colors, and all manner of visual experiences to help the baby want to connect with the world and people around him/her. The fresh smells of lotion and the comfort of being bathed and clean and wrapped in soft clothing and dry diapers, the taste of warm milk while being cuddled close, and the sweet sound of a lullaby all are first efforts to keep the young heart “with all diligence.”
Right away our stories begin, and making memories together is and should be the serious occupation of the loving family. As the child experiences all those amazing firsts, each person in the family gets to relive them, too, and regain the sense of awe and wonder that comes with splashing in the water, feeling sand between the toes, rolling in the cool grass, hearing the song of a bird, listening to music, experiencing new tastes, feeling a furry puppy….
Photographs, drawings, homemade recordings and movies, stories, poems, prayers, and jokes all become ways we use to preserve and relive those shared experiences that make each person both unique and a part of a family and community. There develops an unspoken agreement between us to treasure the story that is being written with the days of our lives and to keep it safe and accurate so that we can from time to time when the need arises, remind each other exactly who and Whose we are.
As these babies we so tenderly hold begin to grow, there are piano and guitar lessons, sports accomplishments, academic achievements, pool parties, cook-outs, family vacations, and a hundred other moments to celebrate and store in our hearts and add to our scrapbooks. Usually, during adolescence when kids sometimes try on other identities and tend to forget who they are, those who love them most are there to remind them of the person they are becoming and how valuable they are, “too good to waste” on influences that would pull them down. We are the community of love that keeps singing the songs of the redeemed when other voices would entice them to trade freedom for license and enduring riches for cheap trinkets of the moment.
When they come through the maze and choose a life partner, a new heart keeper will join the circle, and promise before God and this community to love and cherish and keep the heart “’til death do us part.” The new adventure begins that songwriter Andrew Peterson has called “dancing in the minefields,” a new relationship committed to keeping their hearts and joining them in the journey of being memory makers and keepers together.
It is the communities each of these two brings to this new union that will in most cases make or break the hearts, depending on how seriously and how well they have been memory makers and heart keepers. Now the parents and families must begin the tricky dance of letting go without going away, keeping the treasures of who these two are and pondering them in our hearts.
As we all make new memories on this journey, heart keeping sometimes makes more literal demands of us. Some of us will find our memories turning to liquid and slipping from our grasp. With the memories can go our identities, too, and we may have to then ask someone we trust, someone who has walked with us, who we are and where we’ve been and where we might be going. How treasured then are those who have been the keepers of our memories, guardians of our hearts. What a gift that long ago some lovers of life signed on to be the keepers of our hearts and the guardians of our true identities. Thank God for those who have walked with us, shared our adventures, weathered our losses, celebrated our great joys and are still guarding not only their hearts with great diligence, but our hearts as well; for truly out of the heart flow the issues of life!