I’ve been blessed to parent boys and girls and, in my experience, there is a definite difference between raising the two. Of course the core issues are the same: teaching them the consequences of the choices we make, striving for character with personal integrity, honesty and such, and learning self-control and personal discipline—the kind of discipline to brush your teeth, make your bed, and do your family chores.

But there are also some real and drastic differences between the them. My boys tend to be brutes, the kind that break stuff, lots of stuff—especially my dad-stuff. They also like to wrestle and mock-fight, and they play “rough.” My daughters on the other hand were more concerned with their personal appearance, girlie-girl stuff like clothes and shopping and, although they did fight, they did so in sneaky, subtle ways.

I was doing my best to explain to my three kids how we all need to guard our hearts and that when we sin, we do so because we have a heart problem. Although the boys nodded in agreement—which I’ve learned really doesn’t mean they understand at all—my daughter Mackenzie admitted that she didn’t understand the concept. For her, the word “heart” refers to that vital blood-pumping organ in the middle of our chests.

I tried to explain that the heart is the center of our “will,” the “core of our mind.” But that didn’t make any sense to her, either. Then the perfect example of our “heart” came to my mind. You see, recently Mackenzie has begun to experience what many teenage girls do: the betrayal of friends, gossip, backbiting, and being ostracized by other girls over petty matters. The boys could not care less about that kind of drama, but for a young teenage girl these are serious issues, matters that cause real heartache.

So I asked her, “You know how you hurt when you are having troubles with your friends? When they talk bad about you, gossip, and stuff like that?” Immediately she understood, so I explained, “It hurts in your heart, and that is why we call that a heartache. You may even feel the hurt in your chest, but the real place where it hurts is in the core of who you are—your heart.”

Our heart is the core of our being and it is the essence of who we are, which is why God tells us we must guard our hearts with great diligence. Ever since the betrayal of God by Adam and Eve, all humankind has had a broken heart—a heart that was shattered. It is as if we are all walking wounded, the casualties of spiritual war. It is God’s desire to “heal the brokenhearted,” to give us back an undivided heart.

All our hearts have become fossilized and hardened, but the day is coming when God will remove our hearts of stone and give us new hearts of flesh—hearts that are free from pain. These will be hearts that are soft and tender…hearts healed and devoted wholly to God.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19 NIV)