Saturday, after almost a week of sleeping in and lazing around in my PJ’s, I turned on my alarm and went to bed afraid I’d sleep in come Sunday morning. Yep, I did. Which meant my daughter slept in as well, and we started our Sunday rushing around stressed out, worried we wouldn’t get to church on time.
As I drove to church, (my husband had to work) my daughter looked at me with her, “I’m such a wise teenager,” smile, and said, “I can always tell how you’re feeling when you drive.”
I relaxed my death grip on the steering wheel, leaned back, and offered what I hoped to be a peaceful, “Oh, really? Do tell?” smile.
She then launched into a rather elaborate explanation of my body language–how I behaved when I was in a hurry, stressed, angry–whatever, and how it affected my driving.
They say communication is about 80, perhaps even 90% non-verbal. In fact, people will believe your body language more than your verbal–likely because it is almost innate. Our face reacts instantaneously, revealing our true emotions long before we cover with that forced smile. Which means, we’re really not fooling anybody, are we?
So what can we do? I’m not sure if I advocate brutal honesty, because emotions left unchecked wreak havoc on our relationships. The only solution then is to perform regular heart checks, because that is where our emotions originate. (In conjunction with our thought processes, but that’s another post for another day) And that is where real change begins–at the heart level.
In Matthew 15:8-20, Jesus counters emotionless, superficial religious behaviors by zeroing in on the cause of sin. To paraphrase, He says, “Who do you think you’re fooling? You perform all these acts–say lofty prayers, wash your hands incessantly, but your hearts are blackened with sin.”
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.” Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)
Human rules performed out of human pride. Jesus wasn’t impressed.
“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.'” Matthew 15:10-11 (NIV)
What comes out of our mouth is a direct result of what is in our heart.
Jesus explained, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” Matthew 15:17-20 (NIV)
We like to focus on the outward behaviors. If only I read x number of passages in my Bible per day and go to church x number of times, and give x number of dollars each month, I’ll be good. More importantly, I’ll look good.
But Jesus says, “Who do you think you’re fooling? Man looks on the outside, but I look at the heart.”
That is where I’m beginning in January–at the heart level, because everything stems from that. Financial issues are often the result of greed, which is the result of a discontented heart. Food issues are often the result of gluttony which is the result of an unfulfilled heart. Fear is the result of lack of faith. Broken relationships are often the result of a prideful heart. It all begins and ends in the heart.
Although I’m not sure if it ever ends. For me, keeping a clean and pure heart before God–or more accurately, allowing Him to purify my heart, is a constant struggle. And yet, it’s so easy. All I need to do is draw near to God in humble obedience, honestly acknowledging my sin, and allowing Him to remove in me those things that don’t bring Him glory. The hard part comes in the surrender, because for some reason we cling to those heart-darkening habits, ideas and behaviors. But God calls us to let it go.
As I begin my focus on intentional living, I’m going to dig past the superficial and ask God to show me the root cause of my negative behaviors, then I’m going to surrender my heart to Him, asking Him to remove in me all those things that get in His way.
This will be my daily prayer:
“Create in me a pure heart,O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”