Seems an odd post title on this day before Valentine’s Day, doesn’t it? Before the vision of a lonely and dejected young woman, surrounded by chocolates she bought for herself, settles uncomfortably in your mind, read on!

I ran across a verse in Joel this week that has been reading itself over and over in my mind:

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:13 NIV

Rend your heart. What does it mean to “rend”?

Rend: \’rend\
intransitive verb: to perform an act of tearing or splitting; to become torn or split
transitive verb: to tear as a sign of grief or despair
Most every other reference to the word “rend” in the Bible refers to the tearing of one’s clothing as an act of mourning. Interestingly, however, this reference in Joel tells us to “rend” or tear our hearts instead of our clothing. Why? Because it’s in the tearing of our hearts – our very brokenness – that we most acknowledge our need for God. It’s the doing that signifies our undoing; the hard exterior of our hearts can no longer serve as a fortress behind which we can hide and thus, it provides an open door through which a Healer can come and do His best work.

Before we “rend” our hearts, they are what they are: simultaneously, an organ pumping blood throughout our bodies and the “seat” of our emotions, our very soul. They are for us and focused on us. We may love others, but it’s only with the capacity that is allowed from a “me-perspective” heart. After we tear our hearts before God, He first does that healing work, but then, something else happens. It reminds me of this story in Matthew 14:

15As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

16Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

17“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Before Jesus broke those loaves, they were just five individual loaves of bread. They were limited in how many they could nourish. But, when He BROKE them and placed HIS HANDS ON THEM, they were multiplied to feed many more than was humanly possible, with leftovers besides.

Isn’t it the same with our hearts? When we rend our hearts – tear and break them before our Father – we allow Him to put His healing and miraculous touch on them, moving them out of their limited “me-perspective”, and using them to love in ways, and to lengths, which are not humanly possible.

So, on this day before Valentine’s Day, I consider the overwhelming beauty of a rended – a broken – heart, and how, through it, this one day on the calendar has the potential to move far beyond the heart-shaped box of chocolates to reach a broken world.