The Heart Exchange
September 24, 2010 by Bob Regnerus
My definition of a true friend: When you can unload a pile of garbage in front of them and they climb over the heap to get to you instead of focusing on, cleaning up, or trying to organize the mess.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer friends that are really screwed up. Not because it makes me look better, but because I know it’s authentic. Now if you are one of my friends don’t think I’m saying you’re screwed up in a bad way. I am saying that in you, I see a genuine person with a good heart that is trying to navigate the pressures of life best you can and doesn’t always get it right. That we don’t need to put on a good face in front of each other and appear to be altogether. That we can unload garbage and not try to clean it up. That we don’t fear being judged for our emotions, actions, or words.
I want friends where I can pour all my garbage on the table and not have them try to put it into neat piles. I want that friend to climb over the mountains of crap to get to me and bear with me through the mess. I want to be that friend for other people.
Sitting with friends last night, we each had a chance to pour stuff from our hearts. Stuff that we’ve been dealing with together for a while. I love that we get to honestly share messes with people we sincerely love, and not have one urge to try and fix anything or expect them to so the same.
3 years ago as Matt was going through some major stuff, I remember being naive enough to think I had the power (and the right) to provide him answers. I’d listen to his issues, ponder them, and begin to prescribe solutions. What an arrogant ass I was! No wonder he kept telling me, “I don’t need you to fix this, I just need to vent”.
I know people are being sincere when they offer up their words of encouragement or start to try and fix things. I’m pretty sure they feel like they have to respond, so it sounds really holy to say, “We’re praying for you.” It’s almost like we’re saying, “Wow, that’s messed up. I’m not really sure I want to get involved with that.” (Now seriously, when you’ve ever said that to someone, do you really? Ok, so as you offer your response, you go, “God, please be with Bob”. Then you go about your day. Mostly, we don’t ever even pray that lazy prayer.)
I’ve just learned that it’s not cool to provide solutions, rote prayers, or quote random scripture to a friend. These “answers” or responses have not been earned, and they are cheap bandaids that fall off in 5 minutes.
I’ve learned that there’s a cost to be able to sit in front of someone and walk through their garbage pile. That cost is your heart.
I don’t believe until you exchange hearts with someone, you will ever get the right to stand in their garbage pile, or look them in the eye and tell them they are full of crap or wrong, or seriously celebrate a breakthrough and share the joy. The currency of humankind is hearts. Until you exchange your heart with someone else’s, you don’t have an authentic relationship.
If you know me, you know I have been building an authentic relationship with Father. I just realized something. In order to have an authentic relationship with me, he had to give me his heart, because until I got his heart, I could never trust him with mine. Contrary to popular belief, I did not choose to give my heart to him first. God chose to give me his heart first, and then I saw it was safe to give mine to him. This life is about releasing your heart to him, and then doing that for those around you.
So with Arlene, with my girls, with Matt, and a few good friends – we’ve invested in each other. We’ve exchanged hearts. We can choose to value this investment or not. It’s risky to hand over your heart to someone because it might not get taken care of, but you haven’t lived until you’ve exchanged hearts with someone and taken that risk.
I’m so glad that in this past year, and very much so in the last couple weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around piles of garbage with people I’ve exchanged hearts with. I enjoy the authenticity of the relationships and the lack of pressure to solve every problem. I want to do this more, and I hope the new path we’e stepping onto allows this to happen even more.