One of the recommendations that Leslie and I received at the end of our Assessment for church planting was to take some kind of grace seminar. Leslie and I are both oldest children, and we have some Pharisaical tendencies. Living according to God’s grace takes work (ironic!). Every person who comes to know Jesus as Lord starts out with many deeply ingrained habits (that all made sense when we didn’t know about God’s love for us). It takes a lifetime to discover all of our old, bad habits, seek healing from God’s Spirit, and then establish new habits built on the foundation of grace.
One of the ways God helps us with this challenge is through the gift of community. We’re not supposed to be alone! Leslie found a Christian counselor in Austin who runs a nine month seminar called “Heart Living” that meets at a church in East Austin. The central idea of the course is that we can live from our whole hearts, as a whole person, all the time, but it takes work and God’s grace.
What does it mean to have a whole heart? Well, I’m pretty sure we all know what it feels like to feel divided or like a shallow version of ourselves. Sometimes we get blinded by anger or anxiety (or even things like hunger) and – instead of seeing things from an eternal perspective (illuminated by the Holy Spirit) – we retreat, snap at someone, or overindulge in something in search of satisfaction or comfort. To live according to the whole heart is to be aware of your emotions, the needs behind them, and also the bigger picture of God’s grace-filled plan for your life.
Leslie and I have gotten a lot out of this course, especially with regards to parenting. Lucy is three now and she has some strong emotions that can elicit some similarly strong ones from us in return. Lucy was recently disobeying our family dinner rules. She was repeatedly leaving her seat, which isn’t a big deal, but it was still pretty irritating for me. I told her that if she left her seat one more time, she would have to go straight to bed.
I had a lot of things on my mind at that moment. I wanted Lucy to behave. I wanted to eat my dinner. I knew that her bad behavior was appropriate for her age; she has been testing a lot of boundaries lately (like the “don’t kick dad in the nose” boundary – ouch). I was feeling unsure of my parenting decisions. Was I setting her up for failure by insisting that she eat dinner, when she might have spoiled her dinner earlier with a snack? Was I being frustrated more easily because my own dinner was being interrupted?
Our Heart Living class put a lot of emphasis on this kind of emotional awareness. We want to make good decisions that honor our Creator and imitate the love of Christ, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds. God was kind to me this particular dinner, because right after I gave my ultimatum to Lucy, she looked at me and threw her milk cup off the table. No more uncertainty!
Lucy cried a lot as I put her to bed. I could tell that she understood that she had disobeyed, and I know that it will be better for her in the long run to have a stable homelife with consistent rules, but it was quite an emotional experience for me, too. Lucy did not try to leave her bed, fell asleep, and gave me a big hug the next morning.
Do you live in your whole heart? I believe that God wants us to have life and have it to the fullest! God’s Word has lots of great passages about the heart, but I really like this one from from Proverbs 4 (NRSV):
20 My child, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Keep straight the path of your feet,
and all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
Thanks for reading!