Emily Belle Freeman
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THIS IS MY JOY

AND MY GREAT REJOICING

An Understanding Heart

1 Kings 1:38 - 1 Kings 5:7

Just after King David died, Solomon, his son, prepared to become King.  The night before Solomon was to be made the King, the Lord appeared to him in a dream.  He said to Solomon, “Ask what I shall give thee.”  (1 Kings 3:5)

Carefully, Solomon thought through the situation he was about to be placed in.  He was worried that he would not be equal to the task because he was young, and wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing.  He was overwhelmed over the thought of how many people he would be serving.

Think about this for a minute.  Had you been in this same situation, what you would have asked for?

I have often wondered what I would have asked for.

Solomon asked, “Give…thy servant an understanding heart.”  (1 Kings 3: 9)

The Lord was appreciative of Solomon’s request.  He answered, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself…but hast asked for thyself understanding…Behold, I have done according to thy words…I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart….” (1 Kings 3:9,12)

I have come to respect Solomon for requesting this gift.

There have been many times in my life that I have tried to follow Solomon’s example and prayed to have an understanding heart.  Experience has taught me that this gift is not easily maintained, and that it is one that requires great effort and practice.  But I take comfort in a verse of scripture written many years after Solomon requested this humble gift.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, which some scholars have attributed to Solomon, we read, “And I gave my heart…yea, my heart had great experience.”  (Eccl 1:13,16)  I love the thought that in the beginning of his service Solomon asked for an understanding heart, and that many years later, perhaps it was he who wrote that his heart had great experience.

How do we learn to have an understanding heart?

How do we give our hearts great experience?

When we were first married my husband used to travel out of town for three days every month.  I had three young children at the time, and I hated sleeping in our apartment without him.  So, on the day Greg left I would pack us all up for a mini vacation, and we would go stay at my mother’s house, twenty minutes away.

I will never forget one of these occasions.  Somehow between the last month to this one, the neighbor next door had acquired a large howling dog.  Every time a car passed by it would set the dog off.  It particularly hated the lights of the cars that came down our street during the middle of the night.  I know, because it barked all through the night, every time a car passed by.  I was up all night, and so were my children, listening to the barking.

The next morning at breakfast I said to my mom, “You have got to do something about that dog.”

“What dog?”  My mom replied.

I looked at her incredulously, “The dog next door, it was up barking all night last night, didn’t you hear it?”

My mom just kept eating her breakfast.

“I know that it is against the law to bark after 10:00 at night, so you could call the pound and they would send someone out who would give them a ticket and that would solve the whole problem,” I told her.  (My mind had been up all night trying to come up with solutions; this seemed the most logical choice.)

My mother just kept eating her breakfast.

Finally I said to her, “Does the dog not bother you?”

“I don’t hear the dog.” My mom replied.

“How could you not hear the dog?” I asked, fearing that my mother was losing her hearing, or possibly her sanity, I wasn’t sure which.

My mom patiently explained that a few weeks before the neighbor had called her on the telephone.  “I am calling to apologize for my dog,” the neighbor said, “I know it must be a bother to you and your husband.  But, you need to know that I have a son, who I adore, and he is going through a really hard time right now.”  She explained that the counselor they were working with had suggested they get a dog to see if that would give her son something to live for, and somehow it was working.  “I am so sorry about the disturbance,” she said, “but right now there is nothing else we can do.”

Then my mom looked across the table at me and said, “So when the dog starts barking, I don’t hear the dog.  What I hear is, ‘I have a son, who I adore,’ and the dog just doesn’t bother me any more.”

It was a profound lesson.  I had been so quick to judge.  I knew what to do.  We would call the pound and the matter would be resolved.  My mother had taken a different route.  She had an understanding heart, and it had allowed her heart to have great experience.  Her willingness to love, rather than judge, had made a huge difference in the relationship between her and her neighbor.  To this day, even though they now live miles apart, they are best friends.

I learned a lesson from in that moment that was life changing.  My mother’s experience taught me to have an understanding heart, and this lesson has allowed my heart to have great experiences of its own.

Perhaps today you might consider praying for an understanding heart.

Then, prepare your heart for a great experience.

Emily Freeman