I may be oversimplifying things, but it seems to me that there are three important layers to how we process this life around us:
- Stimulus: The world around us. (top layer)
- Our Mind: This is where we perceive, reason and react to the world around us. (middle layer)
- Our Heart: This is where our core motivations and affections reside. (lower layer)
Perhaps like you, I find myself living in the top two layers a lot. I experience things in the world with my senses and then I react from my mind. I tend to not examine things beyond that point. The path to the heart seems less traveled.
Here’s an example:
No doubt, you’ve been on a busy highway and had someone cut you off or not let you into the other lane. You know the feeling? Cars zoom by with no concern for your need to get over, even though your blinker is on. Your mind gets frustrated and you get mad; then, you want to yell at them or hold up a clinched fist.
So far we are at the top and middle layers. The world around you and your mind.
But what about the heart, the lower layer? What’s my heart saying?
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
– Matthew 15:18 (NIV)
Like a locomotive coming toward us, we encounter the world – traffic, running late, waiting in slow lines at WalMart, home repair problems, interpersonal strife, annoyances, people acting selfishly toward us, etc.
The heart-question we may want to ask ourselves is:
Why am I responding this way?
I encourage you to ask this question not just to yourself, but also to God. Then be silent and wait to hear the still soft voice of God in your heart. Give Him time to test and examine your motives and then listen to what He says.
Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
– Psalm 139: 23-24 (AMP)
It seems our mind’s reaction to the world can serve as a reminder for us to examine our heart.
After quietly searching your heart with God, you may conclude that your heart actually is saying:
- “I deserve better than this treatment from these stupid drivers!” (pride)
- “That driver was so selfish.” (being judgmental)
- “These people are holding me back from my important tasks!” (pride).
- “If I don’t get where I’m going in time, I’ll look stupid or irresponsible to my friends.” (fear & lack of trust in God’s care)
Let’s get into the habit of asking our loving Father to help us see what’s going on down in the bottom layer – the heart….to mold our hearts in His image. For it’s from our heart – the wellspring of life – that all the issues of life flow out.
Lord, I pray that I would remember these three layers…that You meet me (and test me) in the challenges of life. I will encounter troubles in this world, but You have come to give me life to the full, to live through me and help me overcome the world. Let me hereafter encounter the broken world around me and then seek You to know what is truly in my heart…what you want to uncover and work on inside of me…in my heart. In Christ’s name, Amen.