16 Mar A Heart to Heart
A few months ago I decided to pick up Tolstoy’s War and Peace for a bit of light reading. I mean, I knew it was a big book, but multiple people had recommended it to me as one of the best they’d ever read, and if they had gotten through it, then certainly I could tackle it.
Needless to say, I was completely unprepared for its length and complexity, and I’m convinced half the people who’ve said they’ve read it are lying and have just watched the BBC series online.
That’s not to say War and Peace isn’t a good novel, in fact Tolstoy’s mastery of character development is phenomenal (though lengthy). Instead of being flat or one-dimensional, he pulls out the inner workings, revealing the motivations of each character and connecting their actions to the state of their hearts. It’s what drives the entire story.
This week while I was persevering through the book, it just so happened the Hebrews 3 reading corresponded with a particular character’s turmoil. Without revealing too much of the plot (because I’m sure you’re dying to grab a copy after this) or making the plot sound like a daytime soap opera, the character in question is engaged to a man she loves. He’s been away for a year, and she starts to become discouraged. In this state of discouragement she meets another man (a bad one) who claims he’s madly in love with her. At first she rebuffs his advances, but with each decision she makes to dwell on this new man’s affections and to be in his presence, she distances herself from her former feelings for her fiance, to the point she is willing to run away with the new man and will not listen to the reason of her closest friend.
“Rarely have I ever made a conscious decision to harden my heart in a moment. Instead it’s been a slow transformation, like callouses that toughen over time, layer after layer added with each self-promoting choice until my conscience and convictions are virtually un-prickable under a thick wall of ego.”
And I couldn’t help connecting this character’s experience with the warnings in Hebrews 3, how the writer is begging believers not to harden their hearts, not to be deceived by sin. And it struck me that for Tolstoy’s character, and for many of us I think, this hardening isn’t instantaneous. Rarely have I ever made a conscious decision to harden my heart in a moment. Instead it’s been a slow transformation, like callouses that toughen over time, layer after layer added with each self-promoting choice until my conscience and convictions are virtually un-prickable under a thick wall of ego.
I think this is why the author of Hebrews is so adamant in his warnings, because of how subtly our hearts can harden. And we all have vulnerable areas. They’re the secret parts, the yearnings we long to be fulfilled, the desires we think we deserve to have. Since becoming a believer I can look back and identify them in every season of my life. Maybe it’s not as dramatic as Tolstoy’s character; maybe instead of a lack of faithfulness to a spouse, it’s this inkling inside that God isn’t who He says He is, that you deserve more in life than what He’s given you. When these thoughts go unaddressed, unwarned by our fellow believers as Hebrews says, they morph into rocks inside our hearts.
“He’s given you. When these thoughts go unaddressed, unwarned by our fellow believers as Hebrews says, they morph into rocks inside our hearts.”
Hebrews makes it clear that hard hearts lead us down a path separated from God’s goodness. It’s why we have to be so careful, why we must remind each other of His faithfulness. Like the character in War and Peace, we need close friends who will tell us the truth about our hearts. And speaking of that character, I can’t tell you how it ends up for her. I guess you’ll just have to read the book (or SparkNotes) yourself.
Abby Moore Keith
Abby is the lucky wife of Sam Keith, and works as a nanny and writer for TOWN Magazine. She fulfills her millennial stereotype by frequenting artsy coffee shops, listening to obscure music, eating local, and chasing new outdoor adventures, currently manifested in the form of rock climbing. Abby attends our Downtown campus.