It was hard to stay mad at her. At 7 years old she had the face of a cherub and a calm, quiet demeanor… and she had just punched her little sister.
She had a quick mind. She could tell me all the right answers about why she shouldn’t hit… how Jesus told us to love… how we should treat others like we want to be treated. There was just one problem.
When little sister pushed all her buttons, all that knowledge got bypassed by something more action oriented… more primal. In the heat of the moment, the heart stole the show.
What was a Father to do?
The Heart of a Human
The heart of a human is a tricky thing. Scripture is replete with warnings, admonitions, and instruction on what to do with our hearts. Why?
Because the heart denotes action. Heads make us think, but hearts make us do. And what we do is often more important than what we think, especially when it comes to interacting with others. The old adage is true: “Actions speak louder than words.”
Let’s look in two areas to see if this holds true:
1. Our Language
Our language directly connects our hearts to actions. When someone is not fully engaged or performing poorly, we might say, “His heart isn’t in it,” or, “That was a half-hearted attempt.” We get a picture of someone going through the motions.
Conversely, when someone is performing with excellence, we might hear, “She puts her whole heart into it!” This is a person who holds nothing back… there is passion, drive, and most often, excellence.
Our language holds wisdom. At some level we understand the heart/action connection. Perhaps that’s why the heart is so important to God.
Jesus identified the human heart as a place where we store things that will eventually flow out of us.
“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT)
Notice the action word: “produces…,” which sounds a lot like action to me. What we store in our hearts, we will produce at some point. And if we’re anything like my little cherub, our hearts may be revealed especially in the heat of the moment.
So how can we ensure we produce the good that Jesus speaks of? The writer of Proverbs has some good advice. In fact, the heart is mentioned 50 times in this book of wisdom! Here’s just one snippet:
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov 4:23 NLT)
I get what the writer is saying, but sounds so defensive and paranoid to me. Read out of context of Scripture it sounds as though we’re walling ourselves off… not allowing our heart to be engaged. The focus becomes inward and protective.
Read those descriptors again: defensive, inward, protective… and ask yourself if that sounds like Christ.
Surely there’s a way to guard our hearts while engaging the world in Christ’s love!
What if we filled our hearts so full of Christ that there was no room for anything to cause “heart damage?” Or said more positively, what if we filled our heart… that thing that drives us to action… so full of love that the course of our life follows Christ alone?
I like this option because it’s proactive… and it engages the world with Christ’s love. God said it early on, and Jesus repeated it: “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matt 22:37 NLT).
One more thing to point out here: God and Jesus don’t say either/or when it comes to heart and mind. They say both. The mind helps us to know, but the heart helps us to go. And when both head and heart combine, the world around us not only gets to know about Christ, they get to see Christ by our actions.
What if we said it this way:
- If we give our minds, we follow rules
- If we give our hearts, we follow feelings
- If we give our hearts and minds, we follow Christ
Meanwhile… as I searched for some way to explain to my 7 year old cherub that Christ can’t live in just our heads, I saw a reflection of myself. Christ was in my head… but was he in my heart? And had I done a good job as a parent of showing (by my actions) that Christ lived in our hearts?
One of us learned a great lesson that day.
It’s a lesson I’m still trying to live out everyday.
How do you understand God’s interest in our hearts? What would you add to the discussion of heart, mind, and soul?