The Heart of the Matter

Saturday 4 April 2009

A few weeks ago on The God Journey, Wayne read a letter from a guy called Left-Handed Robert who posed this:

I know you've heard this question so many times: "Wayne, I know God loves me, but how do I get this from my head to my heart?" Maybe we've got it backwards. Maybe the truth of God's affection toward us is already firmly established in our hearts. What we need now is for our hearts to confirm and convince our minds that we belong, that we are loved already, that we are precious and beloved sons and daughters. Our hearts know this full well; it's our minds, our heads, that need repenting. I came across this in Romans 5:5. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us." He didn't pour his love into our heads, and leave us the task of cramming that intellectual knowledge down into our inner man, so as to somehow behave our way into trusting him. No, he settled the love question once for all in our hearts by sending his spirit there. So this journey is allowing our minds to be changed from within, the Holy Spirit telling us so many ways, "Repent, change your mind, believe the news that God is here and is good and can be trusted."
Sounds good to me :) This signifies a change in focus, for me. Instead of it being something I must accomplish in myself, from an intellectual basis - reforming my deceitful old Jeremiah heart - instead it is what it feels like in my own experience within myself. It feels like this groundswell of knowledge of and communion with God exists within my heart, in the centre of my being. I can rest in the very centre of my being. It feels like the centre of my being has been made good. From here, from this centre of rootedness, from this position of acceptance, like a giant oak I can sit back and watch my mind at work, the things it says to itself. Somehow, from this position, it is an easier task for my heart to convince my mind and effect the transformation, than the other way round. One is a method of peace and acceptance within the slow change. The other is a knowledge based intellectual exercise that gives birth to boring-as-batshit sermons with PowerPoint principles :)

To me, the difference in the two approaches lies in the difference between the two approaches that can be taken the verse below, which Wayne also mentioned in this podcast:

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.

The up-by-your-bootstraps way says that this is a prime example of performance driven religion. "See," this mindset says. "It says it plainly right here. Unless you obey the commands of Jesus, you do not remain in his love."

The second way, the way that comes from rest in and belief and trust in his love - which need to be learnt and developed as in any relationship - says this instead: "I know from experience that even when I go my own way, and live out of my own paradigms, I am still loved by him. But when I find myself doing and thinking the things which derive from his commands to love God and my neighbour as myself, then I find myself swimming in that love, and the comfort and conviction and safety grows from that, even while I am pleased to find that I am acting in ways that give pleasure and harmony and help to people and also to myself."

This may all possibly sound like a matter of semantics. To me it makes all the difference in the world. What do you think?

(And of course, I am not saying here that God is a beige sort of God. That verse in Romans - "Consider, then, the kindness and severity of God: his severity toward those who fell, but God's kindness toward you - if you continue receiving his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off."

That verse isn't speaking to eternity to me, the way I used to read it. It's speaking to experience. Because sometimes I need to be cut off. Sometimes the very worst thing you could do is heap kindness on someone who needs cutting off and to live in the results of their own murk. It's just the way stuff is. Other times, the last thing you need is a word from a prophet, but instead a cup of mercy. But both are the two sides of the same coin, I believe.

When I walk out in my own wilfulness and persist in my own death-dealing shit, I am cut off. Sometimes I need something so severe to bring me to my senses. Does that nullify the love of God? No. It just means, in actual fact, that I trust him. I trust that verse from my living out of it. Like all of those bible verses, it can read flatpacked until you experience it, and then it springs to life, like towels out of the dryer. This too is the difference, to me, between reading the bible out of my mind and living it out of my heart.

Yet this love of God so often burns, and often living in this love I feel cast adrift, uncertain, doubting, disbelieving, and angry at him for doing or not doing what I want him to do, and for not letting me continue in my own death-dealing ways without having the light shone there. But still, I have never trusted any person in my life the way that I trust this God that I can't see. It's just the strangest thing ... the life that comes out of that strobe light shining, is worth all the pain and discomfort because it sets free, it untangles.

(I think I have raved too much in this post, jumped into about seven different topics instead of treating one fully. Oh well :)

1 comment

  1. I was asked to give a reflection on John 14:15-21 once. It contained similar words: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. In our head-centred, Occidental minds, we read it as a kind of challenge. But, as I thought of it and the context in the Gospel, I saw that it could be read in a more consoling fashion: If you love me, you will keep my commandments. In other words, if my relationship with God is one of loving, then it will not be difficult to keep those commandments.
    Jesus was an Oriental and Oriental people lead with their hearts, their gut, and downplay the cerebral and analytical that we Occidentals cherish. We must meet Jesus' words on their own terms to appreciate them even more. Or at least that is what I think.


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