I have recently discovered this great song by Bebo Norman, the chorus of which goes: "So walk down this mountain / With your heart held high". At first I thought the line was about a head held high. That imagery is more familiar to me: a head held high means being alert, unashamed, confident. So I had to ask myself: What the heck does a heart held high signify? The image to me is of someone actually holding his heart above his head. It seems like a pretty stupid idea to expose this vulnerable piece of flesh to all the elements. What if it starts raining or snowing? What if wild animals attack? What if the wind snatches it out of your grasp or you simply trip and drop it?
I think the following excerpt from the prophet Ezekial offers the key to answering these questions: "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees" (Ez 36:25-27). He desires our hearts, not burnt offerings; mercy and love, rather than sacrifice. But if our hearts are hardened and stony, they can't seem like much of a gift.
In order for our stony hearts to become natural, they must be made tender. And how can a heart become softer and more tender except by being exposed? The decision to hold one heart's high may seem reckless. However, the point is not to seek out the "slings and arrows of outrageous fotune" for their own sake, but to offer our hearts to Christ in and through and despite the suffering that He allows. And it is so comforting to remember, as the Bebo song continues, that we are always "following the footsteps of our Maker". He has gone before us, He is with us, and He cannot but be pleased with our offering.
And perhaps when our hearts have been removed in this way from our bodies, they will finally be able to be moved with pity for others as was Christ's.