Large Hearts

I was talking with a friend the other day about how limited we can feel some times, but in a different way than I was describing in the post called Two Hands. It has more to do with the concept of enlarging our hearts, expanding our capacity to give and enjoy, to handle interruptions, to meet needs, to adjust to change, to give some more.

For example, some women adore having lots of people coming and going all the time, and it refreshes and rejuvenates them. Others can only take so much before they need a little time out. And some women are completely undone at even the thought of having company for dinner. It’s as though we each have a container of a different size, and we can only take in so much before we start to spill all over floor. Some have a teaspoon that is threatening to spill over any minute. Others have a gallon jug that can take quite a bit of jostling before it slops over.

The Christian life involves community, and that can’t happen without a lot of coming and going. Call it a blessed chaos. Mothers certainly have to have the means to deal with many things all at once all the time. I believe that God equips us to do all that He calls us to do, but sometimes we start thinking we have the resources in ourselves to do it ourselves. Ha! Those are the times that we trip up and slosh all over the floor. But God has infinite resources and He wants to give us more and more. So we should ask Him to increase our capacity, increase the size of our containers (so to speak), so that we can handle all that He gives us graciously and gracefully.

We’ve probably all seen how some elderly people can become a little set in their ways. They may not like their schedule to be disrupted, or they may like things quiet and calm. Now I’m not blaming them at all. We should defer to this without question. It may be they have lost their former flexibility just like they’ve lost their hearing or their short-term memory. This can be a sweet limitation that comes with the territory. But in other cases, this limitation may be the result of many years of inflexibility that has ripened into fussiness, sternness, or even crankiness.

I don’t think this is inevitable. I have known elderly people who still have a large capacity. They have not grown stiff-hearted at all, but nevertheless, they are not able to do all they used to do. I think another metaphor might be helpful. It isn’t as though they have run out of gas. It’s just that they don’t get as many miles to the gallon as they used to, so they need frequent fill-ups. Having a house full of noise and people just runs their engines right into the ground. This is the way God has made the world.

It’s good to see our limits and remember we have them. At the same time, as long as it is possible for us, we should be asking God to increase those limits, to open our hearts more and more,  to give us the stamina we need on order to keep up with all He has given us to do.  As we age and become more frail, He lightens our load. But all along the way we need to be asking for bigger containers to receive more grace and goodness so that we will have a greater capacity to give. And the more we give, the more He blesses us, the more He gives back to us.

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17 thoughts on “Large Hearts

  1. Speaking of “blessed chaos”, we had a house full of teens (about 30 of them!) for my daughter’s 16th birthday celebration after they surprised her in a nearby corn maize. Our family went to the corn maize and mid way through and around a bend in the maize, the teens jumped out and gave our daughter a fright! Then it was back to our house for more chaos! After the last teen had left, I said to my husband, “It’s always worth the time, energy, and money! Always!” (I’m amazed at their ability to consume pizza and soda!) Once upon a time, I thought birthday parties for five year olds were exhausting! But as long as I realize I need to keep refueled, then let the “blessed chaos” keep a coming! Sometimes I wonder what my neighbors must think. I can only hope they see a house filled with good and godly rejoicing!

  2. Can’t this sometimes just reflect a difference in gifts in the Body? Certainly we are all called to be hospitable. But some women have “deeper jugs” for one-on-one ministry (which may involve intent listening and giving counsel) whereas others are better at opening their homes to the masses for fellowship. Each kind of outreach requires us to depend on the Lord to fill us with compassion and strength.

  3. Wise words indeed, Mrs. Wilson. Thank you for this post. It’s so easy to get caught up in circumstances and currents and this is a great reminder to look out to Jesus and his people. Enlarge our hearts indeed.

  4. An older friend (a very gracious and Godly woman) once said to me that as she grew older she had to struggle against losing her confidence. As her physical limitations hemmed her in, her confidence declined, especially with memory issues. We need the Lord in every step of our lives. Each stage has its particular challenges, but the Lord is our strength in each one.

    Praying for a larger vessel also means praying for thicker skin, a bigger capacity for love and forgiveness.

  5. Thank you for being willing to share the wisdom that God has given you. Just one more reason I am looking forward to next weekend!

  6. Wow. Thanks for this post! I will remember the phrase “blessed chaos.” 🙂 We have 4 very little ones, but still try to have people over, etc. Sometimes it feels like maybe we’re crazy to be so busy and active in our church community, but I think this is a reminder that we are called to do so cheerfully, graciously and humbly. However, I have lately been convicted of self-righteous frustration and an ungodly weariness in “doing good.” I have been praying for a heart “less petty.” I will add to that the request for a “bigger container to receive more grace and goodness so that I will have a greater capacity to give.”
    Thank you for continuing to strengthen the hands that hang down and the weak knees!

  7. Rachel B, and all you moms of little tiny kids….I just want to say how much we older moms admire you when we see you tending your little people AND practicing hospitality amidst the chaos of your lives.
    We who have been there know it’s a great effort, and that it’s easy to feel pretty inadequate to the task. But your obedience and your willingness to go the extra mile now will be such a blessing for you and everyone you are serving.
    This is a great post, thanks for the encouragement!

  8. Thank you Nancy! A good reminder and it reminds me of a quote from Face to Face by S. Wilkins, which I have in my kitchen: “. . .for the redeemed man, feasting is a symbol & celebration of blessing & victory. ‘All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast’ Prov. 15:15. The man who has the merry heart – a heart blessed by God has a continual feast. His life is full of joy as he sets aside times of properity & fully expresses that joy.” In my life, and what I believe Steve Wilkins is saying is that feasting & celebration are not just for my family, but to share with others the blessings of the Lord. We usually consider a feast to be more then just a dinner at home. And, if we are actually merry, the blessings of the Lord are pouring out on others. In regard to a continual feast, the more we give forth, the more we are blessed.
    It seems when I feel the least like we have anything to share, and then we still have others over, there is an abundance, (at least more then I thought we had). When I feel spent, and we’ve extended hospitality, God was good to add to also; to magnify our blessings in Him, and to add to our strength to do it. After extending hospitality & fellowship, I cannot remember a time where I did not feel rejuvinated, (even when I thought I needed a nap as I was so tired from my week). We don’t realize how good our God is.
    Praise God! He does strengthen us when we are weak. And, when we’ve added singing hymns and psalms to our time, the time was heightened even more. God was praised, and we were blessed in word and deed. We’ve been so encouraged also, over the years, by those that have gone before us, encouraging us in feasting and fellowship.

  9. Can I just take up something similar to what AmyLake said and ask if you think that it is sinful to be an introvert? I read a study once where they were able to show that introverted people used up much more nervous/emotional energy in their interactions with folk, and therefore became ‘peopled out’ much more quickly. So, I guess I’m asking on behalf of all my fellow introverts – are we meant to exercise the same level of interaction with people as our extrovert brethren? Is it the extroverts of this world who get to dictate what is ‘normal’ or ‘proper’ in regard to community life?

  10. Ellen,

    No, I definitely do not believe that extroverts get to do any dictating. We look to the Scripture as our authority, not to people. My point is that we should ask God to enlarge our capacity, whatever it is. Some have a huge capacity, but they may be tempted to think they are capable of doing it all themselves. They need to trust God as much as the the person with the thimble-sized capacity. But if we believe we are being conformed to the image of Christ, then that means we will be growing in our ability to handle more and more. A mother who is tired out already may not be able to “handle” unexpected company. But if she asks God for more grace, He always supplies.
    The introvert is being sanctified as well as the extrovert. The extrovert may need to learn to be quiet and listen more, and the introvert may need to learn to speak up more and contribute. We all need one another.

  11. I guess I’m suggesting that God may not be asking us to enlarge all our ‘teaspoons’, but just to fill that particular teaspoon to its full and make sure that we are using up the space in the jug he has given us in another area. I’m suggesting that God gifts us all differently, spiritually, but also in talents, personality, health etc. to do different tasks in the body and its important that we not become discontent (or guilty) with the various containers He has appointed to us, and to be magnanimous to those whose containers don’t fit the priorities as we see them. (I’m not for a minute suggesting that you are being critical, but rather trying to encourage us all to good works.) I just think that Scripturally, those good works are varied, and the quantities required also vary with the calling of the person. Our character qualities should always be enlarging, our capacity always growing, but that’s different than the various works that we pour them into. We are being moulded into the image of Christ, but our capacity to DO will still be finite. The Lord wants us to handle the situations he brings into our lives to His glory, but each day can only hold so many happenings, some that are sent unexpectedly, and others that we must prayerfully choose between.

  12. It sounds like “doing more” here means there must be a “large gathering of people”. Is that correct?

    I believe the elderly (or young) lady who is praying continually and sending encouraging notes to members of the church could be doing just as much as the family who occasionally hosts the entire congregation for a dessert party. It takes different forms, but I don’t see one equaling a “thimble” and another a “large jug” as far as the giving that is done. One is not necessarily more difficult than the other depending on gifts, resources, and abilities…the work and giving just takes on a different form. I guess I’m just not understanding the references to quantity and “more”. Sometimes less may actually mean more . . . ?

    Confused but always grateful for the wisdom you share!


  13. I think the “thimble” vs. “large jug” analogy is intended within the example. Susie may have a teaspoon capacity for hospitality and a 10-gallon capacity for counseling emotionally needy people. Sally may be just the opposite. And the Lord, having designed them to be just that way, will sure ’nuff send Susie’s twelve cousins to live with her for a month after their house gets flooded, and arrange for Sally’s new next-door neighbor to be a basket case who comes crying on her shoulder every day. He likes to stretch us that way. That’s where the prayers for bigger hearts come in. Susie needs God’s grace to stretch her hospitality capacity and Sally needs God’s grace to stretch her counseling capacity. They both need to fly to Him and cry, “I can’t! But I believe You can, so please work through me to accomplish this. Thank you for sending me this hard task to sanctify me. Please glorify Your name as I trust and obey You.”

    I think we’re getting bogged down in the hospitality issue, which Nancy gave as an example, not as her main point. I think Nancy’s main point is not that we’ll only be sanctified if we force ourselves to cram our lives full of stuff that we know will be really hard for us to do, but that we will become sanctified only as we learn cheerfully to do our best at whatever tasks our loving heavenly Father sets before us to do. Of course it takes wisdom to discern whether any given task is really intended for me. On the one hand, I can’t possibly be called to meet every need I’m aware of. On the other hand, I cannot beg off of meeting every need that I don’t feel is comfortably within my gift set.

    What helps with that discernment? Direction from authority (father, husband, elders) certainly helps clarify. Proximity of the need should be taken into account. If my best friend from church is hospitalized after a serious auto accident, I’m likely going to be called to visit her, take her family meals, help tend her kids, etc. If I heard on th news of a stranger who was in a serious auto accident, I might feel led at the moment to shoot up a quick prayer for recovery, but that’s likely going to be it. And of course there are real, actual limits to what I can do. If someone needs a grand piano moved up three flights of stairs, I guarantee you I’m not called to fulfill that need. I’m sure there are other considerations, but those are the ones that pop into my mind.

  14. Hi again,
    I certainly don’t disagree with any of your comments! Perhaps I was writing too late at night and was not clear. I’ll try just one more little comment. Of course we all have different gifts. Hoorah! But my point is that sometimes we have more than we can handle (and no way out). Those are the times we need to ask God for more grace. Sorry if the jug and the teaspoon got you all confused. If the picture doesn’t help, ditch it.

  15. Just want to say thanks for this post. I have really needed God to enlarge my heart this week and this post was timely indeed.

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