I’ve learned something from bitter experience…
Actually, that’s not exactly true. It’s more accurate to say that I have to learn this time and again. Each time I learn it, I think I’ve got it, but I seem to continue running circles around this same cinder track.
Here’s the basic truth I’d like to pass along. It’s from Proverbs 4, verse 23:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Here’s my interpretation.
If it’s in my head,
it’s coming out of my mouth.
Have you ever found yourself saying something that shocks you even as it’s leaving your mouth? In each instance that I’ve done this, I know that it’s what was in my heart at the time. I suppose this works both ways (loving in your heart = loving in your speech and actions), but as a type-A overachiever I typically only remember my mistakes.
This begs the question: so what am I supposed to do? It’s exhausting and futile to make sure that my heart is harboring only kind and lovely thoughts about everything and everyone at all instants.
Luckily, Jesus gave us the answer. John records it for us in his gospel.
John 6 is quite a chapter. It begins with Jesus feeding 5,000 men and their families from five small barley loaves and two small fish (verse 9). [I love that it’s Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, that provided this suggestions for feeding the multitude. I imagine that both Andrew and Peter were brash and impetuous. My guess is that Andrew had to be a handful to keep up with his older brother. It gives me such joy that these are the fellows Jesus selected to continue his ministry. Maybe I have a chance after all!] It continues with Jesus walking on water to cross the lake. No added commentary required.
In verse 25, Jesus answers the people’s desire for additional signs (like the feeding miracle from the other side of the lake the day before) by describing himself, appropriately, as “the bread of life” (verse 35). I encourage you to read the entire chapter so this is not taken out of context, but here is Jesus’ answer to our question (verse 53):
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.“
Jesus tells us that the solution to the dilemma posed in Proverbs 4:23 is not to empty out all the hateful, jealous, petty, lustful (the list continues) thoughts that pollute our heart and corrupt our speech and actions. Rather, we are to fill up our heart with Jesus. With his spirit in us, we have the opportunity to love fully, just as he loves us.
Here’s a simple prayer to get started: Jesus, I desire a relationship with you. I ask you to transform my heart from hard to soft. I humbly request that you teach me your ways so that I may reflect your love to those around me. Thank you!