The year 2014 is now underway. Patterns new and old are beginning to define our days. Some of us have made alterations or improvements that please us; some of us are struggling on as before, as though nothing happened to mark a difference or a change.
What of our hearts?
New Year's resolutions are well and good. But they often fall into the category of hacking at the leaves and branches while leaving the trunk and root of the matter still strong, unchanged and secure.
Is not the heart one of the roots of our eternal, as well as our mortal, existence? As Shakespeare urged in "Measure for Measure," "Go to your bosom; knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know."
Can our minds even bring forth words to express what is in our hearts? Heavenly Father speaks to our hearts, for it is here that the spirit hears the whispers of eternity, whispers that have a familiar sound and that waken something deep and wondrous that the weighty challenges of this mortal world seem always to be attempting to still.
How many times in the scriptures does the Lord address himself to this core — to our hearts?
"Lay up these words in your heart," he tells us in Deuteronomy 11:18. "The word is very nigh unto thee in thy heart" (see Deuteronomy 30:14). In Samuel: "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord," and "the Lord looketh on the heart" (see 1 Samuel 7:3 and 1 Samuel 16:7).
Resolutions and plans and programs are well and good, but they often do not go beyond the surface of what we are. We cannot survive — much less grow and overcome — if we have so little self-knowledge and self-awareness that our hearts are like beautiful gems covered over and dimmed by the bits and pieces of thought, intent and desire that live willy-nilly inside our minds.
Sometimes we neglect our hearts most disgracefully, skimming over the surface needs and issues of mortal life, absorbed and often too burdened to think about the shining inner self — that glow of the eternal spirit that ever seeks to sustain the natural man.
We are told that we should write the law in our hearts (see Proverbs 3:3), for it is with the heart that we believe unto righteousness — or, in other words, unto action! As we think in our hearts — or feel and long for and perceive — so are we (see Luke 6:45 and Romans 10:10). We speak out of the abundance of our hearts those things that are weighty — that are real — that are of worth. We speak out of the surface, sometimes the confusion, of our minds the trivia of every day. For even the deepest, most thrilling knowledge the human mind obtains has to enter the heart to be imbued with lasting light and life.
Alma speaks about experiencing a "mighty change in your hearts" (see Alma 5:14). This change makes it much easier for us to overcome weakness, to understand, to serve, to love. This mighty change in our hearts brings to our remembrance who we really are — stirrings of memory, stirrings of desire for what is good and pure, course through us with that light that burns out the dross and purifies us once again.
Zion, after all, we are told, is the pure in heart. Becoming pure is a process, and we cannot fulfill this process if we neglect our hearts — if we do nothing more than make resolutions and plans that do not spring from the depth of goodness and the depth of strength that reside in our hearts.
This reminder delights us — it opens to us renewed beauty, hope, peace and happiness. The lyrics of a song I recently wrote titled "In the Silence" (New Era, December 2013) speak of the coming of the Savior and ask:
"Will I see thee in the beauty?
"Will I hear the angels sing?
"Are my own gifts pure and ready
"For an offering to bring?"
When we keep our hearts open, when we seek with our hearts, we will see — we will understand — we will find. As Augustine of Hippo beautifully expressed: "God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they find rest in Him."
In Ezekiel 36:26, the Lord promises: "A new heart also will I give you."
Perhaps this year we might incorporate into our endeavors, into our resolutions, a mighty change in our hearts — the new heart our Father promises to those who seek.
In 2 Nephi 2:25, these incredible words are given us: "and men are, that they might have joy." As our hearts become softened — as we come into harmony with the inner qualities of our hearts — what do we find? We find joy.
The plan is always perfect, always interwoven with our Father’s wisdom and love.
"You are greatly blessed of the Lord, all the day long, and should be happy," President Brigham Young reminds us (see Journal of Discourses, Volume 2:95). "But we are apt to close our eyes upon this fact. Were we to look into our own hearts, and seek diligently to do all the good in our power what is there to prevent us from being happy?"
A new heart for a new year — what beginning could be better than that?
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org