IF YOU HAVE spent any time in church circles, you have probably noticed the emphasis many people put on heart over head. It’s not what you believe, they say, but how you live as a result that really matters.
As a barometer of faith, I don’t disagree, but I also see a danger in giving the impression that as Christians we should pretty much ignore what goes on up there between our ears as unimportant. Because it can really affect our hearts.
Sometimes our emotions are an instinctual response: someone jumps out at you from behind a door and you shriek and either hit them or run away. But often feelings can be traced back to some information we have processed: the company says it’s letting you go, and you (understandably) are anxious about how you’re going to pay the bills.
Given the fact of gravity, perhaps we should not be so surprised that what is in our heads can sink down into our hearts. With our minds being so influential, you might think we’d take better care of them. But it seems to me many of us just leave the door open and let anything wander in. That may be why the apostle Paul wrote about how important it is to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
When your friends knock on your front door, you’ll likely open it and welcome them in, sit them down and offer them some refreshments, happy to spend some time with them. When the UPS driver arrives with a package, you may open the door and thank him, but you’re probably not going to ask him in. If you look out and see someone standing there with a gun, you won’t even open the door; you’ll just call 911. Or maybe lock and load.
That’s the difference between entertaining someone and interacting with them.
We can’t stop thoughts popping into our heads, but we can identify them: we can ask where they come from. They may come from within ourselves, from the old part of us, from God, or from the enemy. Once we know their source, we can let them in or close the door.
Admittedly, this is a foreign concept to many of us. We’re just so used to accepting that whatever is rattling around in our heads has the right to be there.
Some years ago, I was going through a really dark time, during which I’d fret and stew on all the problems I was facing. I’d replay conversations I’d had, over and over. I’d rehearse repeatedly what I was going to say next time. These thoughts went round and round in my head like an endless loop, leaving me anxious and exhausted. I felt hopeless and helpless.
Then I thought I’d try Paul’s advice. When I found myself thinking negatively, I’d make myself stop. Like a couch potato training for their first 5k, it was awkward and tiring at first, as I exercised muscles I was not used to. But, over time, I found that I could do it. I didn’t have to be a slave to my thoughts.
And over time, as the fog in my head cleared, my heart lifted.
Photo by Angelia’s Photography on Foter.com/CC BY-SA