Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit

Today's post was written by the amazing friend who typed my book for me. We had such delightful Gospel discussions while she typed.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psalms 34:18

You have probably read that you must have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Well, the contrite spirit sounded fine to me – but a broken heart (?!?) – no thank you! This always brought up mental images of my heart being made of glass and being thrown to the ground where it would shatter into a million pieces. Did coming unto Christ mean that I had to be left in excruciatingly painful little fragments? It seemed so cruel and made no sense to me whatsoever.

I would like to share an insight on that word which came to me as I discussed this very thing with a friend. She said that having a “broken” heart was really the opposite of being hard-hearted, and that it was more like it had to have cracks in it (“cracks” still sounded repulsive and failed to comfort me) to let the things of the Lord in – kind of like the way a person has to break hard ground. As soon as she said the word “ground,” instantly a “light bulb” went off and I was given to understand that that was exactly what this term meant – and it made perfect sense! Of course we need to have our hearts softened, turned, and broken – like the soil in a garden – because that is precisely where Alma and Amulek taught that the seed of faith is to be planted – in our hearts! “Broken,” then, simply meant “prepared for a specific intent.” I loved that! Better still – it was something I could do.

One last side benefit of another insight I got at the same time – I now also understood why the Church always has, what had seemed to me as a weird little ceremony when I was a child, a ground-breaking for every building to be constructed by the Church. That ceremony symbolizes that that land is being prepared and set apart for a sacred purpose (just like us). Further, it is a sign of faith, signifying that although it will take a long time to see the “full grown” finished product, nevertheless, the ground is now prepared to receive the “seed.” The Lord is always beautifully consistent. (From a talk by Lisa Phan)


  1. Please give Lisa a hug for me! You 2 make a great team. :)

  2. I will. I loved every moment working with Lisa.

    We used to joke that whenever a life- shaking event would occur that the Lord was using it as his "roto-tiller" to really break up the ground of our hearts.

  3. Great thoughts. Another way to say it is to turn the soil. And I wrote about turning on my blog today. It is fun when things like that happen. And it is fun to find those themes the Lord uses throughout the ages.

  4. That's comforting. I find myself worrying that giving myself as a willing sacrifice will be a very painful, hard experience...but the more I learn, the more I see that truly, "it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life" among other things.

  5. When I think of "broken heart and contrite spirit, I'm reminded of what we were taught in S. Michael Wilcox's CES classes. He would give a wonderful analogy of what it means to come to the Lord with a broken heart as he told of how he used to watch his uncle break wild horses. He writes in his book, "Hope: An Anchor to the Soul":

    “First he roped them, then dragged them fighting and kicking into the chute corral. This corral narrowed at the end to barely the width of a horse’s body. Here he could place a heavy leather halter over their heads without getting kicked. A thick rope was attached to the halter, and the end of the corral was opened. All of the boys would hang onto the rope while the horse reared and raced around the corral. We would half drag, half pull the colt to the center of the round corral, where a thick cedar post was set deep in the ground. Here we would cinch the rope, giving the horse about six to eight yards, and then back away.

    “The horses hated that rope. They would fight it for hours. Finally in exhaustion they would hang back on it, with their feet set firmly in the ground and all their weight pulling on the rope. Their eyes were wide, their tongues often hung out, and their ears were laid back. We watched them from the security of the corral fence.

    "In time, however, they learned that they only hurt themselves when they fought the rope. Then they approached the post, letting the rope hang slack. When this happened my uncle would slowly and gently walk closer. At first they would hang back again at his approach. If they did this, he would back away again. It didn’t take long for the horses to learn that all they got by fighting was a stiff neck. Whenever I see the word ‘stiffneckedness’ in the scriptures, I see those horses with their legs locked, hanging back on the rope.

    “In time my uncle could approach them and quietly calm them down. He would rub their sides and scratch them under their necks, all the while talking gently and lovingly. Soon he could uncinch the rope and teach them to follow his lead. When he could lay the rope across his open palm, turn his back on the horse, and walk with the horse following him, he would say, ‘This horse is broken.’

    “A broken heart is not a sorrowful heart mourning constantly over sin. It is a submissive heart, a trusting heart, a loving heart. It is a heart that says to the Savior, ‘Here is the rope of my life. Lay it across your palms that were wounded on Calvary. I will follow your lead. I will go wherever you wish to take me. I will not fight back.’ ”

    And then Brother Wilcox would remind us of the qualities of little children... Can you not picture the Savior calling to the children in your life: “Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me.” ? (D&C 50:41) And can you not picture those same children looking up at Him with such adoration and trust in their eyes and, without any hesitation, placing their small hands in His big strong one, as if to say, “I trust you with my whole might, mind, and soul”? This trusting nature is what little ones can teach us.