Reconnecting with my heart over time and leaving the rat race and people-pleasing habit I knew so well would require I needed to step away from the story I thought I was supposed to be writing, to the truth of my story as it had evolved over my lifetime. It also meant being willing to lay down the religious habits I had developed as a means of self-verification because I was convinced I was supposed to do them to please the Lord, and instead discover the heart I had lost even more when I pursued them in heavy doses without learning if any of them were from Him.
The enemy can tolerate religion such as he did with the Pharisees, but he cannot accept the complete connection with our hearts or a deeper understanding of the truth of our relationship with the Savior, the expanse of His grace and love.
Brent Curtis and John Eldredge speak truth when they write the following in The Sacred Romance:
“It is possible to recover the lost life of the heart and with it the intimacy, beauty, and adventure of life with God. To do so we must leave what is familiar and comfortable—perhaps even parts of the religion in which we had come to trust—and take a journey. This journey first takes us on a search for the lost life of our heart, and for the voice that once called us in those secret places; those places and times when our heart was still with us.”
It can take a bit to discover that what has been driving all the activity is the loss of our heart and the connection we once had with it. As believers, it can happen so easily because we have often exchanged a life of selfish pleasures and moved into a life filled with what we believe is our duty to God. There are so many good things to do, so many needs to respond to, and so much of the heart in us that we know still holds too many secrets, that we subconsciously shift from a calling (if we knew it) to increasing duties, and needs we think we must agree to fill without even asking the Lord if we are to commit to them.
“So for many of us, believing is exhausting. This is precisely why spiritual leaders are observing a precipitous decline in worship service attendance. Religion is a dying business. Most people are still interested in God, but not in all the baggage that seems to come along with the belief.” (Chuck De Groat in Wholeheartedness: busyness, exhaustion, and healing the divided self.)
I think one thing that sneaks up on us relates to our understanding of grace. We know it is grace that saves us, but we too often think of grace as something that happened back there at that moment and know little about living by grace, and grace alone. As a result we go about self-verification in religious activities rather than the ones we pursued before the Lord came into our hearts as a means to make us feel acceptable.
I think Jerry Bridges says it best in The Discipline of Grace:
“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
There is also the reality that those functional and feeling level parts of our self I mentioned earlier in the series are truths we have avoided. They made us feel too vulnerable. It would mean looking at how our story began and this time seeing all of it. To do this in the healthiest way would mean I would need to trust someone to listen to my story as I began to put the pieces of it together. For me, that was a pastoral counselor who listened patiently and asked questions that took me to deeper places so I could begin to see what I had been missing for too long.
It was not an easy thing to uncover the part of my life and heart I knew in the presence of someone I wanted to think well of me. It was even harder to recognize things I had missed along the way and a great many things I had never heard in the Sunday School classes and church pews I had occupied since childhood. I had never understood there were not only a battle for my thoughts, but also an unseen battle for my heart. Though it was unseen, it was crucial for me to recognize it.
You see, it was in my heart that God had placed the essence of who He had created me to be, what passion was tucked deep inside, and where I was in His plan and His Kingdom here on earth. The enemy didn’t want me to discover that and he doesn’t want any of you to discover that as well. From the earliest of ages he begins whispering to us about all that we are not, all the ways we have failed. And we believe him. With that and whatever our attachment style becomes, he carefully weaves a web around our hearts to keep us from discovering all that is there.
In Waking the Dead John Eldredge says:
“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”
He most certainly doesn’t want us to discover whom we can be and were designed to be by the One who created us. He can live with us being shaped and molded by our own ideas of what we should be or the ideas of others to whom we give too much power to shape us as they desire, but the truth is never something he wants us to discover.
To regain my heart would mean a journey to discover the lost parts of it. It would mean laying aside my view of myself, my lack of worth, my self-verification, and lies I believed as truth. The healing would begin in the office of a pastoral counselor, but would come into fullness over time with other means and ways the Lord brought into my path.
What did I discover?
“You are not what you think you are. There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.” (John Eldredge in Waking the Dead)
Next time I will finish this three-week series with the other discoveries that restored my heart to what He had always designed it to be.