Having a one year old in the house is so much fun. All we have to do is break into some kind of song or chant and Martha Jane jumps straight into a new rhythmic dance, her latest moves include dramatic head nodding and attempts to jump to the beat. (Jumps at this age rarely require that feet leave the floor because the motion is all in the knees.) Whatever her response, Ellie and Chad and I find ourselves in hysterical laughter and delight, keeping the song or chant going as long as she will keep it up. And, she keeps it up as long as we feed her with these fully engaged responses of thorough enjoyment and applause. There is such freedom in laughter and dancing…just letting your body melt into the moment without over-considering the opinions of others, your personal appearance or at times, even your composure or dignity.
We’ve been sucked into the television series Friday Night Lights through Netflix, streaming it through our Wii. I am addicted. In too few days we’ve watched an obscene number of episodes from the first season, staying up way too late to watch just one more. The characters are complex rather than characitures, the problems mulit-faceted rather than black and white and story lines are believable and compelling. On one episode the coach, after hearing his beloved but recently paralyzed player struggle with whether or not it was too early to enter a competitive event in a wheel chair, responded with the admonition to “follow your heart.”
I’ll be honest, I love that idea. Following your heart, as I’ve always interpreted it, leads to dancing in the kitchen and laughing hysterically and sloppily. Following your heart means you often choose and do the courageous rather than the safe, the interesting rather than the boring, the spontaneous rather than the over calculated and the passionate rather than the lifeless. But in the midst of these noble notions, there is a lurking reality that there is great complexity to the human heart.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Gen. 6:5The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer. 17:9A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. Rom. 7:14
The problem with my heart, apart from the person and work of Jesus, is that it is enslaved to sin. As Paul laments in Romans 7, the good is not what is done and the destructive choices are done. My natural heart does not desire the righteousness which brings life to all of creation but mostly, desires what will make me feel like God…all powerful (so my bullying and injury of others is justified), all controlling (justifying my anger problem), all knowing (justifying my gossip and slander) and just (justifying my judgments of others). My heart is absolutely deceitful above all things and beyond cure. My motives are never pure but always mixed with this selfish ambition…that I would be liked, that I would gain influence, that I would increase my domain and so on.
In my natural resources, there are only two options: just follow my heart and trust it anyway, despite what it true about its most natural affections OR run from my heart and stick close to spread sheets, pragmatism and asceticism. But both of these options are self-reliant forms of addressing my heart’s problem. They only acknowledge one reality of my heart, the pre-redemption state. They fail to acknowledge that I have not been left to redeem myself but have been offered a cure for the all evil all the time diagnosis.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you yourheart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezek. 36:26Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13
The person and work of Jesus absolutely commends loving fully from the heart and serving from the heart. Further, there is no place in Scripture that separates my words, actions, attitudes and motives from my heart as if it were possible to simply live from my head. Quite the opposite, the heart is given full credit for every word that comes out of my mouth and every action taken. Even more, Proverbs 4 declares that the heart is to be guarded because every single thing I do comes from it.
So what do I do about Coach Taylor’s admonition to “follow my heart”? Apparently, the Gospel’s third option informs me that I already am. My thoughts, words and actions are like lights on the dashboard reporting on the condition of my heart. When I dance and laugh, it is in response to something in which my heart delights. When I am white knuckled and fearful, the truest allegiance of my heart in that moment is in the process of being exposed. When I plant flowers or throw daggers, my heart’s affections are revealed. I am and can only obey my heart.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. Romans 8:9-10
I am no longer my own but have been bought at a price and won’t be “flipped” as if nothing more than a real estate deal. I belong to Him and He is remaking my heart. The very GOOD NEWS in all of this is that this heart of mine, which I am always following, will only increasingly look like Jesus – able to love others more than myself, serve rather than demand to be served and yes, even dance and laugh heartily in the kitchen.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:17-18