Today we are going to go deep. Bare with me, and get a cup of coffee 🙂
We often hear people around us emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, and finding ways to exercise are words echoed through every outlet. The logic is that the more time we invest in taking care of our bodies, the longer we can preserve ourselves free of any complications that may affect, or impact our life span. Perhaps we may not all be as strict but, in one form or another we all take some measures taking care of our bodies for the sake of our well-being.
Although such commitment is admirable, it really got me thinking. If we are investing so much time and effort taking care of our physical bodies that are bound to give in on us one day, then how much time are we investing taking care of our inner hearts? Our society places so much emphasis on taking care of the visible part which is the outside, rather than nurturing and strengthening the inside. In other words, what is hidden and unseen, is not as important as what is exposed and seen.
Today we live in the most superficial, materialistic, and self-adsorbed time there probably ever has been. Everything revolves around what we have, how much of it we have, how we look, where we come from and who we are associated to. Sadly enough, our outward image has become dangerously important in order to stay relevant, while our inner self has been neglected. Why is that? What have we allowed into our hearts that’s changed our perspective and shifted our values and priorities so much?
As people are nurturing the outside, on the inside they are dying of insecurities, lack of confidence, lack of joy, lack of peace, pain, struggles, and regrets. They’re dying from the pressure the world is inflicting on them to keep the outer self “well groomed”. With each passing day the disease of perfecting the outside bypasses the desperate needs of the inside. Ever received a gift from someone that was wrapped up so beautifully? The wrapping paper and ribbons were so beautiful that your expectations of the gift sky rocketed. Then you finally got to the gift only to find something completely random and worthless – so much so that you can tell no effort was put into the gift itself. Suddenly, you are left admiring the packaging of the content more than the actual content received. You see, the world is built on the notion that the package is far more important than the contents found within the package.
This is why we encounter people on daily basis who seem to have it all together on the outside, but are falling apart on the inside. They have success, but deep down struggle with trust issues. They have wealth and power but are drowning in misery. They have authority but lack judgement and decisions making skills for themselves. They are loved by everyone around them, but deep down they hate their own self. They possess great social skills, but somehow struggle keeping healthy and steady relationships in their lives. So I ask again, what are we doing to guard and nurture our hearts? Are we following the same healthy pattern for our inner hearts as we are for our physical bodies? Clearly as individuals, and as a society, we are doing something wrong that we urgently need to fix.
In Proverbs 4:23 it says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Although this is self-explanatory, I have been trying to understand the deeper meaning of this for a while. Do you ever wonder why King Solomon (the writer of this book) said “heart”, and not any other part? I’ve always wondered, and here’s what I began understanding. I will use the physical heart as an example to draw parallels. The physical heart is considered to be the most important organ in the human body. It’s responsible for pumping blood necessary to other various parts of the body.
Without the function of the heart, multiple other organs would simply fail. It’s quite fascinating that one small organ about the size of your fist, and known to be nothing more but just a muscle, can sustain your entire physical being. Nothing else can carry out the function like the heart, except for the heart itself. Nothing else can supply the necessities that other organs need, except for the heart. Therefore, it only makes sense that an organ of such great importance is well taken care of, and never neglected.
In the same manner that the physical heart impacts the human body; so does the inner heart where the very essence of who we are rests, impact our soul. Whatever and however we choose to nurture our inner hearts will determine who we become and what “flows from it” for others to see. Just as the biological heart is responsible for supplying the needs of all other organs, so is the inner heart responsible for the choices we make, the directions we choose to take, what we choose to do, and who we become.
As it says in Proverbs 4:23, if “above all else” your first priority is not to nurture and guard your heart , then no matter how much time you invest on your outer self, there will never be genuine growth and genuine change in the inner self. The more and more you’re shinning on the outside the more and more you will be dulled up on the inside. It’s important to understand that everything you do begins from the depths of your heart. Think about it; your passion, desires, goals, views, needs, aspirations, the core of what shapes you is birthed in the heart, and the heart is shaped and by whatever you are feeding it.
This is exactly what the writer of Proverbs is saying. He is specifically referring to the inner core of a person. Why? Because of the following 2 reasons:
Whatever is situated in the depth of our hearts, almost always controls who we become. In other words, what “flows out from it” is always determined by what you allow to “flow into it”. It’s not just the words or actions that define someone, rather, their inner heart that exposes their authentic self – after all words and actions are influenced by the condition of the heart. That is why God examines the condition of our hearts, and not the outward appearance of what we “seem to be” in the eyes of others.
The second reason is this. Notice it says “guard”? Guard is a strong word. It means to protect which indicates there is an attack or serious ongoing threat that is ready to cause harm or danger if you expose what should be protected (John 10:10).
So the question then becomes, “how does one guard his/her heart?” In that same book, not far from this verse we find the answer. In Proverbs 23:26 it says “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Although this is self-explanatory, I will conclude by explaining a bit further. As parents, if your counsel is heard and respected by your children but their hearts are not yielded to your ways, then very little will ever get through to them.
The same applies in the spiritual realm and in our relationship with God. If we are a reflection of God, as our father, then as His children we must learn to yield our hearts to His ways. Yielding our hearts to Him will not only protect it from the harms and danger, but it will also allow us to learn more of Him while following His ways. If the heart which is the motivator and regulator is yielded to the Lord, then so will be the whole man also.
So as you begin yet another week, think about this. Re-evaluate what is guarding and nurturing your heart. What are you allowing in there to influence and determine the directions you take and who you become?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it […. ] Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Proverbs 4:23-26
Have a good week. See you next Monday for a new post!