The Tin Woman’s Heart
Friends sometimes call me the Tin Woman because of my large collection of tins. The moniker recalls one of my favorite childhood movies, The Wizard of Oz. While it both terrified and fascinated me, it also taught me about some of life’s important values: brains, heart, and courage, embodied in the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. As Valentine’s Day nears, we’re going to peek inside the Tin Woman’s heart.
Or hearts. I counted six heart-shaped tins around the house while meditating on this post. Recently I shared about “what breaks my heart.” Today perhaps I could say I’m focusing on “what makes my heart.” What makes you tick? What makes your heart beat faster? In other words, what do you love?
As I often explain to my Bible students here in Chile, the heart as the seat of emotions represents more of a Western construct. The ancient Hebrews felt and loved from their innards, their “guts.” For them, the concept of “heart” comprised much more than a blood-pumping organ that races and reacts to emotional sensations. It meant their complete inner being, their essential core, including the soul and the mind (the “understanding,” as they might call it).
Thus King Solomon counsels in Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus himself said, “…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk. 12:30-31, NASB)
“I want to love God more than anyone in my generation.” –A. W. Tozer
Candy Hearts: Fullness
While for many of us, the heart may symbolize affection, caring, or romance, the more biblical idea relates to meaning, focus, importance, transcendence. Like Tozer, I want to love God with all my Tin Woman’s heart, but that’s not about an occasional emotional high in church. It is about making God my life’s center point.
We must love God “as God reveals himself, not as we imagine Him to be” (Eugene Peterson). And to do that, all the cracked, empty vessels of our Lonely Hearts Club first need cleansing, healing, and filling by the love of God.
Three of my heart tins came full of Hershey’s chocolate Kisses from a local supermarket in Chile. (Another also started out at the Hershey’s factory, but I’ll talk about that one later.) A small red one bears vintage advertising, another comes in shades of pink, and the third wears turquoise and violet.
And a triple warning about calories, sugar, and saturated fats incorporated into the metal of the box lid! Chile campaigns heavily for nutritional labeling, but this is more than just a stick-on label. So along with the sweet benefits of chocolate candy, we’re cautioned there’s also a costly downside.
Our hearts, too, juxtapose virtues and vices.
Good and evil. Truth and deceit. Soft and hard. Abundance and barrenness. Wounded and broken, or mended and whole. Peace and contentment, or chaos, conflict, and confusion.
Jesus puts it this way: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts…” (Mk. 7:21) and “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Mt. 12:34-35 NASB).
The outcome depends on which “half” is nurtured and fed. A whole heart comes from Jesus, “…full of grace and truth…for of His fullness we have all received” (Jn. 1:14, 16, NASB).
“The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” –Blaise Pascal
Remember how the Scarecrow (of The Wizard of Oz) longed for brains? His straw-stuffed head might as well have been empty. The Wizard granted him a diploma in fulfillment of his wish, and while I’m all for education, I wonder if sometimes we fill up on a different sort of empty calories in our search for the good treasure.
Jeweled Hearts: Beauty
Thank God my Tin Woman’s heart, “easily swayed and often betrayed at the hand of emotion” (Steve Green song), can become a ransomed and rescued heart. He can restore the dullest heart to a golden glow (see Lam. 3).
Ugly hearts to holy hearts. Jaded to joyful. Cluttered to clear as crystal. I need the beauty and mystery of divine love that romances like no story ever written.
One of my heart tins flourishes a garden of multicolored flowers and the trademark Brighton. A friend donated it to my collection, so I confess my ignorance. I had no idea until this week that Brighton makes stylish jewelry, handbags, and other timelessly chic accessories.
So I wonder what this tin held? I picture a lovely scarf, a fondness of mine. 😊 Do you recall the “accessory” the Tin Man of The Wizard of Oz received at the end of the journey? It was a heart-shaped pocket watch to hang inside his chest. Tick-tock.
“To hide the key to your heart is to risk forgetting where you placed it.” –Timothy Childers
Unfortunately, fashions fade. Along with beauty, talent, and potential, they have only a limited lifetime, an expiration date. Especially with misuse and disuse.
In the movie, the way I remember it, the Tin Man got caught in a sudden rainstorm and rusted into rigidity. Let’s not keep the beautiful gifts of God in a box waiting for the ideal occasion. I’m so often tempted to cope with adversity by detaching from my heart.
But that’s not the “oil can.” God forbid that idleness and indifference should make our hearts so sluggish that, as Annie Dillard puts it (The Writing Life), “You open your safe and find ashes.”
Instead, polish and shine.
Spicy Hearts: Passion
The battle-worn heart shows us that some things matter. The fight is worth getting worked up about. My Tin Woman’s heart needs the passion and zest of not only a great love but also a great challenge. A purpose equal to the pain and struggle.
“Everything, absolutely everything, takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives: the way we feel and act in the so-called privacy of our hearts and homes, the way we make our money and the way we spend it, the politics we embrace, the wars we fight, the catastrophes we endure, the people we hurt, and the people we help. Nothing is hidden from the scrutiny of God. Nothing is exempt from the rule of God; nothing escapes the purposes of God.” –Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire
In my book Destiny at Dolphin Bay, the character Melissa Travis comments on her apathetic outlook on life: “I don’t see anything to get excited about.” But her friend Nicolás retorts, “Well, don’t you wish you did?”
Yes, a thousand times yes. Give me a goal.
That brings me to the other Hershey tin, which contained Reese’s peanut butter cups, my favorite candy. It appeared in the chocolate-and-cookies aisle just ahead of World Cup passion last November and looks like a soccer ball. Sort of, except it’s heart-shaped instead of round. Talk about breaking the mold.
My dear aunt, now with the Lord, put a second zippy heart tin into my Christmas stocking some years ago. It’s tiny, red, and filled with…an unidentified substance, golden brown, mealy, and fragrant. Could be ginger or nutmeg, definitely a spice of some kind.
The Wizard of Oz’s Cowardly Lion needed courage—spirit, soul, strength. He got a cross-shaped medal of valor. In real life, the courage precedes the medal, the wound comes before the Purple Heart and the wins before the awards.
“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.” –Michael Nolan
I seem to remember the Lion imbibing boldness from a bottle too. (Am I crazy? Does anyone else remember that?) That’s about as likely as acquiring common sense from a college degree or true beauty from baubles.
You’ve heard of bleeding hearts, excessive sentimentality. But the spice of God-passion can warm our cold hearts, bind up our divisions, and inspire to us to act in ways that honor Him.
I share my heart for the Island of Chiloé in my new book, Return to Chiloé: Treasures from the Island. If you’ve had time to read this devotional travel memoir, please consider taking a few minutes to share your thoughts about it in a review at this link. Your help would bless this Tin Woman’s heart.
And our heart is everything. Care for it, watch out for it. Pay attention. Guard your heart, dear friend.