I recently heard Dan Hazeltine, the lead singer for Jars of Clay, quote Walker Percy, who said, “Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition.” This literary critique coincides with a bit of advice a mentor of mine, Dr. Jim Gardner, once gave me over lunch at the university I attended. He said it’s better to read a well-written, non-religious work of literature that provides insight into the human condition than it is to read a shallow, half-baked religious book filled with spiritual superficialities.
Both Percy’s critique and Gardner’s advice speak to both the importance of embracing the truth of the human condition and the danger of avoiding our humanity. Both statements also beg the question: So what, exactly, are the realities of our collective human experience that we’d do well to embrace? Here’s a modest start to answering that question:
So as we navigate the week, let’s not expect everything to go according to plan, and let’s not be surprised when life’s twists and turns affect us. Instead, let’s remind ourselves that we're not bigger than life, and then let’s give ourselves a break. Cut ourselvs some slack. Offer ourselves grace. Care for our hearts. Repeat after me: “I don’t have to be superhuman (your turn) . . . and pretending I am will always diminish and never enhance my true humanity (your turn again).
Here’s to a humble, healthy, happy week,
I still recall the summer I discovered I no longer had a heart for baseball. After coming to this realization, I endured the remainder of the season, broke the news to my father, and decided to walk away from the sport I once loved.
It's relatively easy to walk away from something like baseball. But walking away isn't always a viable option in other endeavors. Maybe you're working at a job you barely endure on good days and utterly despise on bad days, but you stay because you have bills that won't get paid without it. Every day you show up to work you're reminded of the emotional burden--the pain--of losing heart.
Losing heart is always painful--never more so than in relationships. Whether it's a best friend who moved away in elementary school, a first love that broke our heart in middle school, or disconnectedness with a spouse or an estranged family member in our adult lives, we've all agonized over a relationship that's lost its heart. Similarly, for those of us who pursue (or who at least appreciate the idea of pursuing) a spiritual way of life, we've almost certainly experienced seasons in which our heart for God and love for people seemed next to impossible to find.
Whether we lose heart for a hobby, a career, a relationship, or a spiritual way of life, we find ourselves searching for answers: Is there a way out of this barren place? How can this love be rekindled? How can I reclaim my heart? Here are a few ideas, humbly offered by a fellow searcher:
1. THINK BACK. Remember what it was like in the beginning. Allow ourselves to recall with fondness the love, the passion, and the energy we had on our first day on the job, in our first year of marriage, or during our first awakenings to a spiritual way of life.
2. TURN BACK. Let's not stop with reflecting on the fond memories of those former days; rather, let's act upon them--the first act being a mental one. Allow the memories to move us to a moment of decision. Acknowledge that we truly desire to reacquire what we once had and have since lost. Decide to find our heart. Become willing to rekindle the love and reawaken the passion we once had. And commit to doing what it takes to get there.
3. GO BACK. Then it's time to act upon the mental decision we've made. If we truly wish to feel the way we felt at first, then let's do the things we did at first. Too often we convince ourselves that we're going to feel our way into acting; we'll do what we did at first once we feel like we felt at first. However, we humans aren't particularly good at feeling our way into acting; we're much better at acting our way into feeling. So even though we don't yet feel like it, we begin doing what we did at the beginning--those extra things that aren't technically a part of our job description, the thoughtful acts of kindness we did for our spouse when we were dating, the times of prayer we carved out in our schedules when our spirituality was first sparked. We go back with our feet, confident that if we take these decisive steps then our heart will eventually follow. We step out in hope that the pain of losing heart will slowly but surely be replaced by the joy of reclaiming heart.
Revelation 2:5 - So remember [THINK BACK] where you were before you fell. Change your hearts [TURN BACK] and do what you did at first [GO BACK].
Have an abundant day,