“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.”
These words from the prophet Joel, heard during the Ash Wednesday liturgy, lead us into the Lenten season. Making a return to God with a whole heart is not only a good intention for Lent, but also a good intention for the entire spiritual journey of our lives. What would be the alternative to returning to God with a
heart? Approaching God with a partial or divided heart. Who among us does not fit into this category at some point on our journey? Our hearts and minds may be divided by a full calendar or a long to-do list, preoccupation with our own desires and agendas, or constant bombardment of noise and information.
The agonizing feeling of a divided heart can especially be felt in discernment. Trying to choose among various options, the heart often feels torn, wanting to experience several different paths. So what exactly is God asking of us by requesting our return with a whole heart? Does it imply that we are separated from God when our heart feels divided? I think not. Rather, I believe the message is that
God’s desire for us
is that our hearts feel whole. This is perhaps the best definition of a vocation – the path in which a person feels wholly alive and fully themselves; the path in which all parts of one’s self can be seamlessly integrated into one’s most authentic being. This is what God desires for us.
During this Lenten season, consider how God is inviting you to whole-heartedness in your discernment. Which is the path where your heart feels undivided? Put the question before God, and then wait. Patiently. The answer will likely not come immediately. Lent reminds us that we often must endure times of desert dryness before the clarity of Resurrection joy. Be patient, and faithfully stay the course of your whole-hearted return to God.