Write from the Heart

Here is what I have seen: The best writing comes from an open heart.

True, the craftsmanship must be there. But it is meant to serve transparency; it can never replace it, and without that honesty, that searching out of one’s emotions and convictions, of one’s deep personhood, writing is mechanical, contrived, bloodless, even death-dealing.

But how does one write from the heart? By writing, period.

Writing, if persisted in, over time opens the heart, a crack here, an inch there, now two inches, now a foot, until the door swings wide open—if not constantly, at least more and more frequently. Writing helps the heart find its way and discover its voice.

And then, in turn, the heart becomes the way of writing.

The Squirrel on the Screen Door

I’m sitting here in my couch, editing some Bible study notes on my laptop, when I hear something go “whump!” I glance left toward the patio and see that a squirrel has jumped up onto the screen door and attached himself like Velcro. “Okay, pal,” I think, “now that you’ve gained that position, what do you intend to do with it?” From what I can see, it doesn’t offer any advantage over the patio, which is strewn with scrumptious sunflower seeds. But a squirrel will explore; squirrels are as curious as cats.

So after taking a minute to contemplate his next move, this little bugger starts working his way up the screen till he’s reached the top. This accomplishes nothing of any value for him, but it does put him in a particularly vulnerable situation which, for me, offers the potential for some brief amusement. I get up and tear open the glass sliding door right in front of him.

Did you know that squirrels are equipped with a powerful inner spring? It is triggered by the startle factor; the more sudden the surprise, the mightier the jolt from the spring and the greater the distance it will launch the squirrel. I’d give this one about ten feet.

At my old apartment, I had a squirrel catapult. Here I don’t think I need one. I have a screen door.

Enoch: The Man Who Walked with God

The things one discovers in the Scriptures in unexpected places! This excerpt from the early genealogies in Genesis, for instance:

When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died. (Gen. 5:18–27)

Notice anything unusual? Let me provide a larger context.

The Genesis 5 genealogy lists ten men, from Adam to Noah, who lived phenomenally long lives. Seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred years—my mind has a hard time absorbing lifespans like these in an age when one hundred years is very old indeed.

But it is the man whose age is the least impressive that stands out to me. In the midst of this forest of ancient oaks—including a dad who lived 962 years and a son, Methuselah, whose span of 969 years makes him the longest-living human on record—Enoch walked the soil for only 365 years. It is his relative brevity that captures my attention. Enoch was a mere sapling, so to speak, still glistening with the dew of youth, when “God took him away.” How odd, and how striking!

Yet just as significant is what comes directly before: “Enoch walked faithfully with God.” The statement doesn’t mean those other guys didn’t also relate to God. Two of them obviously did, and I’d imagine the rest did as well. But similar words aren’t written about any of them—not even Adam or Noah. Only Enoch. There seems to have been something very special about his connection with God. As the book of Hebrews points out, Enoch didn’t taste death; rather, “he could not be found, because God had taken him away” (Heb. 11:5).

I call that remarkable. The only other time you read of such a thing in the entire Bible is when Elijah is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind-borne fiery chariot. (Imagine seeing that!). Moses died. David died. Even Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, died—and absolutely had to. But Enoch? He simply vanished, translated in a heartbeat into God’s direct presence. Enoch’s desire for God seems to have been reflected by God’s desire for Enoch, because he took Enoch at a very young age, as ages went back then.

What should I make of that? I don’t know. There’s not enough information to build a teaching on it. But this much I can get out of Enoch’s account, and I will put it in the form of a prayer:

Father, let me please you. Let my relationship with you be something like Enoch’s. I know the weaknesses of my flesh. I am fraught with the crud of my mortality. But I am also a branch of the true Vine, Jesus, and I am rooted into your heart. Let your life flow through me in a way that delights you—not so that I can, by some miraculous circumstance, avoid tasting death like Enoch did, but simply because, at the core of my being, I love you. I think you are wonderful. And odd as my life is, and strangely shaped as I am as a person, I nevertheless so very much long to reflect the beauty and goodness of who you are. I want to walk with you like Enoch did. Please help me to do so. In your name, my Lord, amen.