I am less than a year away from wrapping up my twenties. And not that it scares me, it just surprises me. It came so fast. When I was eighteen, thirty seemed old, far away. I just knew by then I would have so much of my life figured out and established, and well, I’m almost there and I totally don’t. Truthfully, I feel only a little bit older than that girl who graduated college with a plan: job, marriage, kids, home, minivan, contentment. I’m four out of six— working on the minivan (I dream big!), but mature enough to realize contentment lasts about three minutes in this world before I want, think I need, or am jealous for more. If anything has truly changed about me in the last few years, certainly a piece of that is the mortgage and the wedding ring and the dark brown line two babies left down the center of my belly. But it’s also this: I’m less concerned with what will make me content and paying much more attention to what makes my heart burn.
On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24), we read the words of two of Jesus’ disciples after he appeared to them: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened our eyes to the scriptures?” They speak with the clarity of hindsight that the words spoken to them right from Jesus were the very things that made their hearts burn. I stopped there, on verse thirty-two, because I knew this much: if Jesus speaks and it makes the heart burn, I want my whole life to have that heart.
The beautiful Bible commentary of Matthew Henry says of this scripture: “… when we are much affected with the things of God, especially with the love of Christ dying for us, and have our hearts thereby drawn up in holy desires and devotions, then our hearts burn within us…”
I think there is a difference between a life that pursues contentment, and a life that goes after what makes our hearts burn. Contentment wants this world: pretty things, nice reputations, fun social groups, big homes, well-behaved children, and you know the whole list because we all have it running in our minds all.the.time. But a life following hard after a burning heart— that’s a brave life, maybe even a bit dangerous at times, because it wants the kingdom of God. If you’ve seen others living like this, you know it. Their lives aren’t explainable other than to say the Holy Spirit is alive and well. They are daring, exciting, inspiring, contagiously joyful. They believe God’s word will accomplish its purpose (Isaiah 55:11) and they unashamedly listen for him.
What makes your heart burn? Is it your career, your wayward son, your neighborhood? Is it the orphan or the widow, the hungry and homeless, is it marriages falling apart around you or friends lost in a fog of depression? Too many of us don’t let our hearts burn: we throw water on the brokenness we see because we believe the problems are just too big to fix anyway, or we fill our lives so much with ‘contentment’ we have yet to make room for passion. Jesus invites us in to so much more. Let’s listen when our hearts burn. Let’s let God trade our ‘minivan dreams’ into holy desires, things that are so on mission with Him our entire countenance changes when we lean in. A burning heart is a good thing. It means Jesus is who he says he is, and he is still talking to us, inviting us on to the road with him.
And just we’re clear, I still would love the minivan someday.