Summer is in and many people have shaped up as well as they can. Gym, exercise and diets. The outer man/woman needs to be in good shape! Yet there is an inner me which needs far more attention than what the body requires. Its what really counts as these timeless words suggest:
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Prov. 4:23
It is not to be taken for granted. A world that prizes busyness, efficiency, speed and success leaves little room for ‘matters of the heart.’ The dangers of superficiality and distraction from what really is essential are real temptations. Even disciples of Jesus cannot escape this challenge. We console ourselves because we know the truth, as if that were the same as living it. We all know that a good diet and exercise help us keep our physical hearts healthy, but it doesn’t mean that is how we live. The same is true for our inner life.
Now another reality arises. Even when we are in touch with the centre of our being we may not like what we see, even finding it hard to understand ourselves. Indeed the Word of God says: The heart is deceitful above all things … Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9) and Jesus doesn’t mince his words when He says: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matt. 15:19). Orthodox Christian doctrine is vital but even that is not enough for authentic spirituality. We can sing the right songs and say the right prayers, and yet become one of those people of whom God says, ‘honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’. Mark 7:6
So what should we do? First we need to know the heart of God in prayer. This we do with a resoluteness and intentionality expressed by King David Psalm in Ps 27 ‘My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord I will seek (vs 8). God the Father is gracious and encourages us to go to Him always for as He promised: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jer. 29:13)
Then in meeting Him I discover myself, the inner man that hides in darkness, fear, weakness and sin, hurt, pain and disappointment. As I dare come into the light of truth I can then safely pray ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Psa. 139:23) and ‘Create in my a clean heart O God’ (Ps 51:10) and ‘the troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish’ (Psa. 25:17).
Like Peter who saw how deeply his inner self needed forgiveness, our reaction may be ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Yet the immensity of God’s truth and holiness are balanced by the depth of His grace and mercy: ‘For for as his majesty is, so too is his mercy’ (Sir. 2:18).
So this summer get in an inner good shape for that is the real way to live. Expand your heart with God’s love as you seek to serve Him by loving others sincerely. Then we will echo the Psalmist’s words:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song (Psa. 28:7).