Today feels like a good day to recognize that Holy Week is coming. We have been on a journey for sure. The road has had twists and turns, but there is one shining light ahead that we can anticipate with joy: The Empty Tomb.
The Empty Tomb is approaching, so it’s time to do with fullness what we strive to do in each moment: Follow Jesus to the Cross. As we are in a true retreat at home, it’s a good opportunity to take time with ourselves and consider where we want to go and what it looks like, for each of us, to follow Him to the Cross…to lay down our own lives for the life of the world. What does it look like for me to follow?
One go-to idea when making choices is to “follow your heart.” When people use this phrase in reference to what they want to do or are trying to do, it’s usually because they feel conflicted. And when someone tells someone else to “follow your heart,” it’s usually because they want to heal confusion in a few words and give advice that seems comforting. Living by “following your heart” can actually become a justification for decisions, when taken lightly. Because, if you’re “following your heart,” you must be going in the right direction. Instead, it can and should be a place you come to because of a deep desire to know and recognize where God is leading you.
Actually following your heart requires an honest connection to yourself and commitment to seeking a deep relationship with God. And following requires movement…action…which requires flexibility with your own plans. If I am following my own heart, it means that there is something or someone else involved besides just me. I am not following myself, but I am hoping and trying to move in the direction that I am being drawn to by God. It’s pretty cool that God doesn’t move my feet…but He moves in my heart, in the hopes that I will choose to walk and follow Him.
In my own heart is where God lives and moves. I make Him alive in my own life when I move to where He is inviting me. And I’ve got to be in touch with myself and my heart…the center of who I am…if I’m going to do that. I have to check my motivations in what I am pursuing, and make sure that I am following what God values in me…not my desire to be important and valuable in my own way. I have to keep in touch with Him…constantly… and be aware of what He is doing in my life. I have to be able to recognize the wrong kind of pull and be able to silence it. And recognize the little ways He shows me His presence, comforting me and carrying the things that are heavy for me. If I’m not in touch with Him, it’ll be very easy to create my own unsatisfying and confining world that I will convince myself that I’m happy in. But I won’t be.
Distractions routed in safety and low risk can pull me other ways as well. And when that happens, the life that I am truly called to live gets foggy. When I try to open my “ears” to hear the voice of my heart…choices become simpler. Not less scary, but simpler. Not less odd, but clearer. Confusion isn’t long-lasting, but a state of being that reminds me that there are many directions pulling me and something isn’t right. God does not live in confusion. But…He can work through our deep confusion to reveal a few things to us:
- Something is coming. A move, a choice…a change. Something is happening that involves my being open to Him and making a potentially hard choice. My life is evolving and something is going to come from the current mess. If I just try to push aside my very real feelings that something isn’t right because I think I should simply be happy all the time, I may very well miss what God is trying to tell me.
- God trusts me. Confusion screams, be prepared! Watch out, in a good way, for what’s next. Your life might change big time, but it’s going to be ok. And God is there, but isn’t going to fix everything for you right now. Sometimes confusion exists to work your heart towards where you need to go. To show you how intimately God loves and trusts you with your freedom.
- Right now matters. Existing in confusion, whether it’s for days or moments, should be a reminder that now always matters. All you have is now. Sometimes you can’t control when things get cleared up. And all you can do is your best through the mess in your head and heart. Confusion can stifle you, or bring out your best self. It can overwhelm you, or make you smile and go: God. I love you. And need some light in the darkness. Confusion can actually bring God into your now in the most comforting and peacemaking way.
Following your heart is not a cheesy movie tag line. It’s what makes us live into our true selves. There are many things that can make us choose other “selves”. The general answer is fear that reveals itself in many forms:
Fear of the wrong choice, fear of change, fear of hurting yourself and/or others, fear of not being the best, fear of not pleasing people, fear of being vulnerable, fear of being unconventional, fear of failure… and this incredibly overwhelming and awful list goes on and on!!
The reality is that following God requires recognizing fear, then moving through it to love Him anyway. Human beings are generally motivated by fear or love. I guess you can say that we either follow our fears or our hearts. Yikes. Why do I choose fear so often?? Why do I think it’s safer? It’s a delusion we create to prevent movement and evolution from happening in our lives. And we think we’re avoiding the string of awful fears listed above. But here’s the thing. What an awesome opportunity we are given to discover true peace and contentment of the heart when we are presented with an opportunity to live in communion with our own selves! Wow!!! We bring our own being into a peaceful state by going where God is inviting us. Because in loving Him, you truly love yourself and others in the most intimate way. Moving in the direction of your heart and truly living requires cooperation when His loving revelation of His will is shown to you. Fear will stop this from happening…if you let it.
It’s funny that, as I type, I feel increasingly more peace and more fear at the same time. What I’m most scared of, though, is drowning out His voice with my over-thinking and abandonment of, essentially, my own life. As I went through different stages of life, I’ve tried my best to go where He was pulling me. Often, to places that were unconventional, but proved to be exactly the right moves for who God wanted me to be for the world. Each of us only has one life to live. We aren’t in control of anything else besides our choices.
Some choices will be small, and some will be huge. Some choices will be made for us, based on the results of what we pursue and circumstances that are out of our control. But God’s voice will always be there…again…sometimes a soft whisper, and sometimes a loud scream. And the following is then yours to do. Sometimes He reveals His will after we choose. All we can do is embrace our freedom and be brave enough to silence fear and choose love. Let’s try our best to listen to the pull of our hearts…and then, to follow.