“Follow Your Heart!” Unless It Tells You To Do Opposite Of What Is Expected.

“Follow your heart.”

My wife and I have reached a point in our relationship where the mutual exchanging of gifts isn’t necessary for our enjoyment of Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Days. We occasionally exchange gifts, but most years we “give” each other something of major expense at a random time during the year and we allow that to be our one-time annual material display of affection; it may be a shared vacation, a major household repair, or sometimes even a medical procedure. (This year, my wife gave me a quadruple bi-pass for our anniversary.)

Being this comfortable with one another is satisfying, but it can occasionally produce anxiety, especially when I don’t know what the rules are for an upcoming event. There is always that quandary of, “Is she expecting a gift this time? If so, how expensive a gift? Does she have a gift for me?”

A few days ago, I asked my wife straight out if she had a gift for me, and what the expectations are for this year’s Christmas. In female fashion, she avoided the question and left me hanging with a vague, “Maybe.”

Today, knowing the time is getting short, I again straightforwardly asked my wife what she expected.

She impishly grinned and then responded, “Follow your heart.”

What an answer. Yeah, I know what she means, and what I should do. Yeah, I know that I shouldn’t even have to ask the question to begin with; I should automatically have a gift purchased, wrapped, and hidden away regardless of her expectations. But most men don’t think that way. We deal in expectations.

“Follow your heart.” Three words a man hates to hear because he knows his heart will lead him in a different direction than his loved one expects.

Spiritually, many people believe “Follow your heart,” is God’s answer to the question, “What do you expect of me?”

It is true that we accept God’s saving grace by a faith which originates from our hearts. (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:9,10). But our hearts will not produce a proper faith if they are not trained by God’s word.

Many a murderer, assailant, or thief has followed his heart, committing acts of violence against others because his heart was not trained by God’s word. Many a religious zealot has committed acts of violence against others or practiced self-abusive asceticism in the name of Jesus as he followed a heart untrained in God’s word. Many a well-meaning, truth-seeking lost soul has fallen under the spell of a golden-tongued orator who falsely claimed God’s inspiration; the seeker, following his/her untrained heart, has entrusted all to the golden-tongued wolf parading in sheep’s clothing.

The Bible plainly teaches that the untrained heart is not a trustworthy guide when it comes to following God. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Our hearts will be controlled by whatever we value at the moment. Without God’s word as a guide, the heart will fickly be lead from one treasure to another. Indeed, the heart is a great follower, but a terrible leader.

However, when we allow God’s word to train our hearts, then we can follow the admonition, “Follow your heart,” because they will value that which God values. And the life they produce will be a life solidly grounded in truth and not one unstably built on maybes.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

“So faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

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Traveling in the Darkness of Night or the Light of Day, Which Do You Prefer?

Over the past 13 years, my wife and I have made several 12-hour trips to Wisconsin to visit our daughter and her family. We traveled throughout the night this year for the first time. Traveling in the darkness made the drive somewhat pleasant and peaceful, but it also limited the potential for enjoyment of the experience.

The darkness produced peace and pleasantry in the fact that I felt somewhat alone for almost 12 hours. Since traffic was relatively light, I experienced very few frustrations from the usual interactions with other drivers. The darkness seemed to hide my identity and actions, so that the fear of detection and being stopped by law enforcement due to an infraction was minimal; this proved somewhat relaxing.

The experience was peaceful because I felt free to pretty much do what I wanted to do as I set my nose toward my goal. I did not feel hindered or restricted by others in fulfilling my plans for my travel.

However, traveling in the darkness limited the potential for enjoyment in that I could not clearly see anything outside of the beams of our vehicle’s headlights.  I could not view the awe-inspiring crop lands of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. I was not prompted to curiously consider the lives of the inhabitants of the various homesteads which we passed. Although I did see the red marker lights that identified each of the gigantic windmills which dot the countryside in Illinois, I did not wonder at man’s ability to design and construct such engineering marvels because I could not see the actual structures; I would not have known what they were, had I not seen them before.

The darkness limited my potential for enjoyment in that it limited my ability to experience and appreciate the world outside of our vehicle. I could not see very far in front of me, behind me, or around me. The only means available to me to gauge our progress were the occasional road signs that our headlights happened to shine upon, and any instruments of measurement I might have utilized inside our vehicle.

Traveling in the darkness also increased my fear for the safety of myself and my family. Although I had taken as many precautions as possible to ensure a safe trip, machines can breakdown, driver error can happen, and falling weather can add to the chances of an accident occurring. The fear of having to deal with any of these on an interstate in the darkness of night is far more acute than having to deal with one of them in the light of day.

Spiritually, traveling throughout our lives in darkness may appear peaceful and pleasant. We may feel free and unrestricted. We may like to believe that the darkness hides our identity and actions from anyone to whom we are accountable, and thus we can do whatever we desire. We may enjoy the concept that we are alone; free to revel in our own thoughts and lusts.

But eventually many of us will realize that traveling through this world in spiritual darkness actually hinders our enjoyment of life.

We will realize that being trapped inside our own shallow existence limits our ability to appreciate the wonders of this world which God has provided for us. We will realize that being unable to see past the man-made illuminations of life produces needless fear and hinders our ability to understand the true meaning of life. We will realize that spiritual darkness cannot hide our actions from the one to whom we are all accountable.

That’s when traveling in the light becomes the preferred choice.

On our trip ,I enjoyed traveling in my own little world in the darkness of night. But the potential dangers and the discouraging limitations proved to negatively outweigh the enjoyment. From now on, should I have a choice, I will choose to travel in the light of day.

The reasons for spiritually choosing to travel in the light of God are just as compelling.

“19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21) ESV

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