Today I walked inside a little church in a tiny town in Tennessee. I served there in the fall of 1977, almost forty years ago. I reminisced about precious people I met there.
One special place was outdoors where I gathered on a Sunday morning with three teenagers to have a Bible lesson. In that small group was my future wife, Paula. She was a senior in high school and I was a sophomore in college.
Four months later we went on a date and in less than two years we were married.
For all these years Paula has refreshed my soul and blessed my life. She truly is my best and dearest friend. One reason is because of her genuineness and opening her heart to me. She is the real deal. I have tried to do the same for her.
We see an example of how a woman discerns when a man has opened his heart to her in Samson’s encounter with Delilah. She had been assigned by his enemies to discover the true source of his supernatural strength to her.
He refused to do so, but she knew when he finally opened his heart to her.
“And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand”. (Judges 16:15-18)
Friendships are born when we discover common values at the deepest part of us in another person. One of the he best examples of friendship in the Bible is Jonathan and David. Three times it is said that Jonathan “loved (David) as his own soul”. (I Samuel 18:1, 3; 20:17) There was a high degree of transparency that characterized their relationship.
When someone trusts you with the secrets of their heart it is a sacred trust. Secrets bind people, for good or bad. So we should be careful with whom we share our heart. Sincerity is always appropriate, but to whom we are to be totally open is to be guarded.
Here are a few ways and times I opened my heart to my wife.
- I opened my heart to her in times of joy. We had two weddings. Literally two ceremonies on the same day in different states. The first was in Tennessee in the late morning, the second in Alabama in the evening. Two different preachers, but the same wedding party and singers.
My grandmother had terminal cancer and asked if we would have a ceremony in Alabama so she could attend. Paula and I loved her dearly; it was an easy decision.
At our “first” wedding when Paula walked down the aisle and I saw her I was overwhelmed by emotion. This was one of the highlights of my life and I was fully aware of the moment. Tears of joy began to spill down my face.
Some people are more sentimental and expressive of their emotions and I fit in that category. I love deeply and it is often expressed through affectionate words and hugs, but also tears. My spontaneous expression that morning was a risk. But it represented my open heart and feelings for the one I loved the most.
- I opened my heart to her in times of sorrow. Less than three months before our wedding my best friend died from a car crash, hit by a drunken driver. It was one of the most painful days of my life. He was like a brother to me, one of the best people I’ve ever known. I still miss him.
On a few occasions the grief washed over me in a fresh way (usually in the wee hours) and I hurt so deeply I would softly weep. Sometimes Paula would awaken and ask what was wrong. Again, I took a risk and opened my heart to her. (You know the old stereotype, men don’t cry).
Though she has never experienced the loss of a close friend she comforted me, holding me without trying to counsel me. It drew my heart to her. It still does as I write these words.
- I opened my heart to her in times of discouragement. Years ago I went through a season of depression. One of the major causes was a chronic health struggle, but there were other contributing factors . Together, gradually and cumulatively, I found myself in a dark valley I had never experienced before.
During those days I was very transparent with Paula and let her into my heart. She was helpful to me more than any other person besides the Lord. I don’t know what I would have done without her.
- I opened my heart to her about my dreams. No one has encouraged me more than Paula. She has been my biggest cheerleader and believes in me more than I do.
Once I confided in Paula that I felt I had some things I wanted to put into print to help people. I had never told anyone that because. I was insecure and wondered if I could write anything people would read. She fully endorsed my dream.
I was full of doubt and questions, but her belief and encouragement were wind in my sails.
While I do unburden and share my heart with Paula I am not indiscriminate about what I say. Yes, we are “one flesh” (Matthew 19:6), but that also includes a responsibility to care for her spirit and to protect her from unnecessary burdens and stresses.
- I don’t share counseling details with her. Obviously there is a confidentiality issue I want to honor with those that speak to me. (She knows that I don’t counsel ladies alone. She is with me or either counsels them herself).
- I don’t share problems at work with her (for me, that means church). I’m not only my wife’s husband, but I’m her pastor, too. Occasionally people disagree strongly with me over an issue and react. I don’t want her to see others in a negative light and to be free in her spirit to fellowship with them. Sometimes she will hear that someone is upset with me from a friend and tell them she didn’t know anything about it. That’s because I intentionally didn’t tell her. I want her to be able to attend church and receive a blessing.
- I don’t share more negatives than positives with her. I don’t want her to dread seeing me because I consistently dump problems on her. I want her to enjoy our time together – conversations, laughing and learning, the simple things in life.
Erma Bombeck wrote, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else”.
I’m blessed to have a life partner with whom I have been able to share my heart fully. She has made a difference in my life – and in my heart.