Now that God’s got our full and undivided attention, it’s time to do the internal work that we often neglect in favor of busy work, to do the work of cultivating good soil so that we can get at the heart of the matter by dealing with the matters of the heart. Back on Day 9 as we touched on the yin and yang of legitimate power, we discussed how the first and great commandment “to love the Lord your God” (Luke 10:27) always begins with the heart, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Whatever is planted in the heart, sprouts out of the mouth, out of one’s actions, and during this Lenten Safari, we must deal with the matters of the heart in order to cultivate the good soil that will bear the fruits of the Spirit, to purify our motives.
The heart is considered to be the strongest muscle in the body–the seat of our emotions which holds “wisdom and intelligence”–and it is the place from which we derive our motives–good, bad, and indifferent. In fact, most people haven’t taken the time to develop their emotional intelligence and interrogate their motives. Interestingly, in my work with the church and nonprofits over the years, it is clear that a lot of times people show up to “do good” but with selfish motives–from being in charge, to being in control, to feeding their need to be needed. All of these things flow from unresolved matters of the heart that tend to revolve around a need for power/control, affection, or status/esteem. That is why Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” For oftentimes even though we do good, if it is from an impure heart, it will either be just a facade of good or have real consequences.
Then the question becomes, how do we guard our hearts when we have been taught to use the intelligence of our minds, and not the intelligence that resides in our hearts? Well, as someone who was brought up in the Christian tradition, I find it interesting that as children, many of us were taught that Jesus lives in our hearts, but when adversity strikes, we have been conditioned to only rely on our minds. This creates a disconnect and a disadvantage as we try to out-think or overthink with our mind the matters of the heart that also need to be considered by the heart. Elevating one over the other creates a discord when they were created to work in harmony. When the mind has been elevated over the heart, you can have an intellectual genius with no emotional intelligence or in the reverse, you can have a heart-centered person who does not have the capacity to make good life choices. So, we have to develop a healthy sense of self-awareness and make a conscious and intentional effort to question our motives.
So, let’s begin by honestly interrogating our motives, acknowledging where they are out of line, and tracing back to the root of those motives with the help and guidance of Spirit. To get to the heart of the matter we must deal with the matters of the heart–the hidden motives, the neglected soil of our hearts, for the soil will not become good without our attention and intention.
Tara LaShawn Seabrook is a self-proclaimed “free spirit,” a public, practical, and prophetic theologian; a spiritual and social justice activist; a creative and cultural artist; and a prolific teacher, speaker, and writer. Currently, she resides in Guatemala where she is finishing up a 2-year volunteer in mission commitment with a non-governmental organization before returning to her native Charleston, SC in the spring of 2017. Her book based on her original poem, “I Am She: The Anthology” will be released later this year.