by Dina Sleiman
These past few months have been a season of heart exploration for me. I’ve been inspired to really probe my heart and understand its deepest desires. It all started when I had the pleasure of taking a continuing class with Allen Arnold called “The Heart of a Storyteller.” The class was all about putting your heart first and creating hand and hand with God. I loved it so much that I decided to continue my study of the heart throughout the summer, which was especially apropos as my upcoming series is called Valiant Hearts. Since Allen Arnold works with John Eldredge and referenced many of his books during the class, I decided to soak myself in Eldredge’s writing.
First I read, Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers. Usually when I read a book, I see portions I want to absorb into myself and make my own, and other parts that I don’t quite agree with. But I have to say, I drank in every bit of this book. So often in church we are given the impression that we must deny our hearts and our desires. That these are somehow “fleshly.” But Eldredge challenges readers to do the opposite: to awaken their hearts, seek healing form their wounds, and align their hearts fully with God. When we truly know God and understand the deepest desires He has placed in our hearts, we will be set free to live out our divine destinies.
Next I read Captivating. In book 2 of my Valiant Hearts series, my heroine is struggling with gender roles, and I wanted to have a clear picture of Godly femininity versus traditional expectations placed on women. The book really helped me to see this clearly, and a surprise bonus was that it helped me to understand more deeply my own heart as a woman. So I went on to read Wild at Heart to better understand the man’s role in this whole journey, and I continued to learn and grow. I’m not certain that I bought every word in these books the way I did in Desire. As much as the Eldredges strove not to stereotype and box in the genders, that tendency still crept in at times, but overall I really enjoyed the books and gleaned a lot of valuable information. They challenged me to look at myself and those around me in a new light and continued the theme of awakening the heart.
Meanwhile, never fear, my obsession with all things YA dystopian continued. Next on the list was the Delirium trilogy. This series is about a future society that seeks to eliminate love and passion, seeing them as a sickness called the deliria, with horrible symptoms like loss of focus, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, sweating, etc… I imagine most of us have joyfully suffered all those symptoms and more. LOL.
While fairly sensual, full of profanity, and too mature for all but the oldest teens in my opinion, this series was a great compliment to my study on the heart. The author made some wonderful observations about the nature of love and all of its many facets, not to mention the enormous risk and cost involved in loving. I felt that her theme was very much in line with Christian beliefs. The dystopian society in Delirium had twisted scripture to their purposes and created their own religion, but the series seemed to subtly honor true Biblical beliefs and pointed out that the “old” religions had been based upon love and sacrifice. In fact, the heroine’s epiphany involved learning a true Biblical story which helped her understand the sacrificial nature of love.
My summer of heart exploration culminated on August 30th, when I laid on the swing in the backyard determined to finish up my reading so I could focus on writing come September. On that afternoon I was struck with brilliant line after brilliant line. I clipped them and saved them together on my kindle, and when I went back to look at them, I was beyond amazed at how beautifully the wrap up of the Delirium series lined up with the wrap up of Wild at Heart. Allow me to share the brief version with you.
Requiem by Lauren Oliver.
“But it’s not about knowing. It is simply about going forward. The cureds [those cured of love] want to know; we have chosen faith instead…We will have to trust too—that the world won’t end, that tomorrow will come, and that the truth will come too.”
“Take down the walls. That is, after all, the whole point. You do not know what will happen if you take down the walls; you cannot see through to the other side, don't know whether it will bring freedom or ruin, resolution or chaos. It might be paradise or destruction. Take down the walls. Otherwise you must live closely, in fear, building barricades against the unknown, saying prayers against the darkness, speaking verse of terror and tightness. Otherwise you may never know hell; but you will not find heaven, either. You will not know fresh air and flying.”
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (with quote from My Utmost for His Highest)
“The greatest obstacle to realizing our dreams is the false self’s hatred of mystery…mystery is the heart of the universe and the God who made it. The most important aspects of any man’s world—his relationship with his God and with the people in his life, his calling, the spiritual battles he’ll face—every one of them is fraught with mystery… it is a joyful rich part of reality and essential to our soul’s thirst for adventure. As Oswald Chambers says, ‘Naturally we are inclined to be mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing…Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.’”
And so that is how I conclude my summer of heart exploration. Love is hard. Following your heart is hard. They involve risk and much sacrifice. They are fraught with mystery and uncertainty. But the risks are well worthwhile, and the alternative is a life not worth living at all.
What has God been speaking to you lately? And on the lighter side, have you ever experienced the symptoms of "armor deliria nervosa" in the picture above?
Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/