“…Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Ps.86:11-12, NIV
For much of my spiritual journey, I had been asking God to help me love Him more. My heart’s capacity has had plenty of room to be filled. I know I’ve been both heard and helped. God is gracious to plant the love of Jesus Christ into our hearts. By His Spirit, we are led to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. I have not abandoned that prayer request, but it has been refined. Over the years, my request has become focused more on quality than quantity. While I still pray to love Him more, I have begun to pray that I may love Him better. To love well is as significant as it is to love more. That’s the tone of Psalm 86.
The Psalmist comes to God as one who is “poor and needy” (vs.1). He affirms His trust in the Lord and turns in His direction. He speaks of calling to God all day long. He asks to learn the ways of God, that He might walk in truth. He seems to be in line with the “more” dimension of prayer and love. But note the prayer request for His heart. He prays that God would unite his heart. The author’s problem was not with capacity, but fragmentation. His internal life – thoughts, feelings, desires, and decisions, were scattered. Asking for more love would not solve his problem. He prayed for a focused love.
My own inventory suggests that a fragmented heart may be common. We feel pulled in too many directions and responsible for various callings. Yes, we are to give God our all, but we have families, jobs, church obligations and civic duties. Our soul is like a central room with many doors leading out to life’s demands. We scurry from door to door, trying to give each its proper attention and affection. Our heads are occupied, our emotions are strained, our bodies are worn and our souls grow threadbare. We exist as the sum total of pieces to a puzzle we can’t quite put together. On top of all that we hear, the call to love God with all that we have – and all that we have are fragments.
I may be painting too severe a picture, but I think it’s close to our portrait – maybe not always, but for me too often. The trouble may be that we view our life as competing obligations. Church pulls at family. Family tries to get ahead of job. Job steals from soul. Everything tugs at the heart in different directions. That may be how we feel, but it doesn’t have to be that way. God can unite our hearts into a whole expression of love. Jesus said that Mary chose the one thing that can’t be taken away from her. Paul summarized his life into one calling – to know Jesus. Maybe our need is not for more love but for a collected heart.
A collected heart sees God as first and foremost. God is not distraction or competition for the many roles we have in life. God alone can unite a heart that spins in too many directions. He brings order to disorder, wholeness to fragmentation, direction to my scattered ways. He is the One who gives all parts of life focus and meaning. I’ve learned (though not mastered) the blessing of simplicity: To love God. In doing this one thing, all things take their shape before Him. The surprise has been that in striving to love Him well, I find I love Him more.