Do You Listen to Your Heart, or Does it Listen to You?
Have you ever realised that Disney princess films and pop love songs have the same mantra? Think about it, they all whisper the same line: listen to your heart. There is even a classic 80's song by that name. Some of the lines are as follows:
Sometimes you wonder if this fight is worthwhile
The precious moments are all lost in the tide, yeah
They're swept away and nothing is what it seems,
the feeling of belonging to your dreams
Listen to your heart
when he's calling for you
Listen to your heart
there's nothing else you can do...
There is nothing else you can do... Really? Are we simply trapped in the dichotomy of listening to our hearts or listening to outside opinions? As with most dichotomies presented to us, this one is false. We do not have to listen to our hearts to be happy (happiness is temporary, anyway), nor do we have to live under someone else's idea of success. When life does not go as planned, when we feel the pressure of needing to achieve the American dream, or we feel miserable because we have not achieved some idea of love, success, and affluence, we absolutely should not listen to our hearts. We should not listen to the world, or even well-meaning Christians breathing out 'feel better' pop psychology.
What other option do we have, if we ought not listen to the world or to our hearts? We need to tell our hearts. We need to speak Truth to our hearts and minds, even when we feel miserable. The most oft quoted reason for unhappiness I hear from my friends is, "I don't have a boyfriend!" Is a spouse your idea of success? Have you made a good thing an idol? Do not wallow in the misery of what you have not. Speak Truth to your heart, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing," says the writer of Proverbs. Marriage is good. But if you are not married, then singleness is your garment of glory.
I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
~ St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 7
Perhaps you are in true lament, a valid thing for Christians to do. You are not wallowing, you are deeply lamenting the loss of a person, a dream, a good thing, or the way your relationship with God used to be. Speak Truth to your heart in this, too. Lamentation is not a sin, but in the midst of grieving, remind your heart to hope.
The valid lament:
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
The equally valid Truth spoken to the heart/soul:
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
For the help of His countenance.
(Psalm 42:4-5, NKJV)
We may not be yet in the place where we have hope in God, and certainly not in a place of rejoicing. However, we must speak Truth to ourselves: hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, as the English Standard Version words it. The Psalmist is reminding his own heart of how he used to joyfully praise God. Yet it is no longer he who is so full of praise that he is at the head of the people going to God's house. Does he sit down an kick and scream? No, he tells his heart to hope in God, for at some point in the future he will again be able to Praise Him.
Perhaps you are in the midst of many crises all at once. I know many persons who are in that place - health troubles, family frustrations, financial crunches, and cars breaking down are just part of their stress. In that place I am tempted to say, "God, a little kindness, some ray of hope would be great right about now. Look at all I am going through, I deserve a little help." Yet I do not dare to believe that I deserve anything from God. All is gift, as a friend of mine told me recently. It is true, all is gift. I cannot win God's goodness or kindness. I cannot earn my redemption and salvation. I do not deserve any good thing from the hand of God. All He gives is a gift, and all I can do is to receive that gift with an open (not grasping) hand. This I must remind my heart, when it would rather think it was entitled to good things.
Finally, after you tell your heart what is True, do not become myopic. Do not dwell on how right you were and how wrong your friend was in an argument. Do not sit on the couch feeling overwhelmed when there is laundry to do, or dishes to wash. Speak Truth to your heart and then do something. Sometimes that means taking a long walk -- without a friend, phone, or iPod. Sometimes it means cleaning your house. And sometimes it means looking at the trees and the sky, simply listening to the silence.