Our heart is a magnificent, graceful beast. The muscle that pumps blood through our bodies, with its intricate series of trapdoors and valves fed by electrical charges tightly controlled and released so that everything happens in tandem. The heart is like poetry, every word in its place. It is like music, cresting and falling in all the proper places to pull emotions out of us like glad little splinters.
That’s not the heart I’m talking about, however.
The heart I’m talking about is the engine – the driver and catalyst for everything we do – that the Greeks called the “seat of our motivations.” It’s where our treasure is, the place that overflows into our speech, the place where both evil and goodness tangle in battle every millisecond of our breathing lives. The heart as a concept, a humanness, and a life-shaping agent is what I’m talking about.
The largest lights in the life of following Jesus are energized and fed by the heart. The heart gets its intel from our minds, the way we see the world and conceive of reality, but the heart moves us to act on it.
In other words, it’s fine to be intellectually supportive of the idea of God but if it does not form and inform our motivations then it is trivia and has little value.
For many of us, the reason there isn’t the fulfillment and hope that Jesus promises for His followers – rivers of living water, life and life to the full, light instead of darkness, etc. – is because they are imprisoned in the realm of our ideas. They haven’t made the 1.75 foot journey from our head to our heart where they become fiery cheerleaders beginning for us to advance into the fray.
As a kid, I was fully intoxicated by the live-action Spider Man television show. Our local station, TV23, ran a contest and you sent in a postcard for a random drawing to win a real Spider-Man suit. Obviously, my mind raced with pictures of a full-body costume and the ability to shoot tension-ready webs from my wrists. Wisdom now greets me – this was 1982, the technology had not yet caught up with my imagination.
I watched the end of the show every day – leaving behind sunny days and other beautiful life-giving activities – to see if I had won. It was not to be. Obviously the memory still stands in the gallery of my mind, a bit of disappointment and a bit of naivete but ultimately it was my heart that struggled. I had shaped my life around that suit, feeling it over me as I fought crime and villany in my neighborhood.
My heart was in it for the win, and my motivations followed.
Reading through the Proverbs, those nitty-gritty life teachings sharp enough to slice through our homegrown common sense and allow that beautiful muse Wisdom to slip into our reality. Proverbs 2:1-8 is about the quest, the longing, and the desire for wisdom which we now see in the teachings and life of Jesus. However, the heart is not absent:
“…make your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding…if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures - then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:3, 4 NRSV)
Is it possible that we’ve lost the ability to know and see God because, quite simply, our heart isn’t in it?