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Lessons On The Heart From Unexpected Places

Kristy Malik

Do you remember Linus, Charlie Brown’s best friend from the Peanuts comic? He was the one who carried his blanket everywhere. Well, I have a “Linus” in my own house—my youngest son. His blanket is named “BearBear,” and he goes everywhere with us. I mean everywhere. He attended ski school this past winter, nicely zipped into my son’s jacket as he went down the mountain. He’s basically a member of the Malik family—he’s in our family photo that hangs on the wall. My older kids know how to leap into action when BearBear is lost and can find him in a matter of minutes.  

Our collective vigilance on BearBear’s whereabouts did not prevent us from having a minor catastrophe a couple weeks ago. We went to Mass and accidentally left BearBear at home. In the shuffle and craziness of getting five kids out the door for church (on everyone’s favorite daylight saving Sunday), BearBear got left in the dust. We only realized this tragedy ten minutes into the Mass when my son noticed BearBear’s absence and began to wail. 

Now, I know kids love their stuffed animals, and it’s cute that something so simple can bring them comfort when they’re young. My older kids have all outgrown their old favorite stuffed animals, and I look back fondly on those memories. I’m sure the day that my youngest son doesn’t need BearBear anymore will be coming soon. (I do pray that it comes sooner rather than later because if any kid would bring a stuffed animal to college, it would be this kid.) 

In my 15 years of dealing with crying kids at Mass, I can usually handle the situation one way or another (ask me about “the look” or “the walk of shame” some other time). But this time was different. My son was heartbroken. I could see on his face that he didn’t want to cry; he was trying so hard to be tough, but he just couldn’t help it. He wanted BearBear and literally nothing else would suffice—no amount of comforting, bribing, or reasoning worked. 

I need to be honest—part of me became annoyed at this point. I wanted him to calm down, yes, but what struck me more was how much I didn’t want him to be so affected by something so trivial. The more I tried to calm him, the more I kept thinking how we were sitting in the (literal) presence of the Lord while focusing on the upsetting consequences of a missing blanket. 

I love the way the Lord works, though, because after Mass, my husband and I were talking about the “BearBear incident” (which we affectionately call it now), and our perspectives couldn’t have been more different. 

I explained to him my feelings about the “BearBear incident,” and how it made me think how we are similar to children in this regard. We all have something in our lives that our happiness is dependent on, even though Scripture warns us against this all-too-human inclination.[1] I started telling him all the trivial things that I felt were taking up space in my heart where the Lord should be (as I silently patted myself on the back for recognizing this divine revelation). 

My husband, however, had a much more paternal—and loving—perspective on the “BearBear incident.” He felt it revealed a deeper truth about the Lord and His goodness. He explained that as trivial as the blanket may seem to us, our son loves it. And how when we are lost, God is even more heartbroken than our son was about his lost blanket. God longs to be close to us at all times—much like our son never wants to be separated from BearBear. 

Talk about convicting. Thank God for the sacrament of Marriage. 

You may have heard St. Augustine’s quote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” but have you heard the beginning of that quote? He says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” He made us for Himself because He loves us. Our Maker knows what our hearts need, and nothing this side of heaven will ever fully satisfy. He wants us to give Him our hearts, and in return, He wants to love us with the closeness of a loving Father. 

So, as we’ve crossed the halfway point of Lent, let’s take an honest look at our hearts. Joel 2:13 says, “Rend your heart…and return to the Lord.” What is your heart focused on? Is there something directing your heart away from the Lord? Have you thought about God’s heart for you, and how it breaks when we are separated from Him by sin? How can you return to the Lord with your whole heart?

My son eventually calmed down that Sunday as I listened to the end of the homily. The priest was talking about the Transfiguration story from Luke 9. He pointed out that Jesus wasn’t simply reflecting the glory of God. He was transfigured into the glory of who He is—from the inside out. He explained that we too can be changed from the inside out; that transfiguration can happen in our lives too. He finished by saying that bringing our hearts to Jesus in the sacrament of Confession is how this can happen. 

Rending our hearts prepares us to be transformed from the inside out. And when we are transformed from the inside out through confession, we draw ever closer to the heart of the Father. 

Can you take a moment to rend (examine) your heart today?
What treasure takes up space in your heart where God should be? Is it an expectation? A relationship? Something material?
How is the Lord calling you to return to Him these last few weeks of Lent?
Have you considered how God’s deep love and desire for closeness with you is possible through the sacrament of Confession?

[1] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:19–21)

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