A hole in the heart (a septal defect) is a congenital defect of the heart which results in inadequate circulation of oxygenated blood, causing breathlessness. Sometimes this hole closes naturally as a baby grows and there is no need for surgery; in other cases, surgery is required to effectively ‘close the gap’. It can be very frightening when such things are diagnosed, but most babies now born with this defect survive to live normal lives.

Because of our experience of this condition in the physical realm, we may well respond to the idea of a ‘spiritual’ hole in the heart with alarm, suspecting this implies a lack of compassion or kindness, an inability to receive or pass on God’s love. When I talk about a ‘hole in the heart’ in spiritual terms, that’s not what I mean. I am thinking more in agricultural terms, where the farmer digs holes ito plant seed. If we think of our hearts as a field of unploughed land into which God’s word is the seed that will produce fruitfulness in us, the idea becomes more understandable.

Hosea urges God’s people to ‘break up your unploughed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord.’ (Hos 10:12) Breaking up unploughed ground is hard work. It involves digging, tilling, ploughing and harrowing until hard soil is loosened, softened and ready to receive seed. In the same way, we have a responsibility to prepare our hearts to receive God’s word each day. We have, in effect, to make a hole in the heart, to dig into our hard hearts to remove the sin and unbelief that so easily lodge there so that we can, by faith, receive the seed of God’s word and give it the best possible environment in which to grow.

So before you gather to worship today, do a little heart-digging and make room for God’s word so that the seeds He wishes to plant in us are not scattered onto dry, rocky ground where they can be snatched away. Dig a hole in your heart which can receive the word of God and let that word transform you, nourish you and produce a harvest in due time.