I'm reading a powerful and convicting book called How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong by Leslie Vernick. During a bout of insomnia last night, I read this section which struck deep:
"How we act and live stems from what is in our heart. A change of heart requires much more than simply changing sinful behaviors into more Christlike behaviors. A change of heart requires us to allow God to rearrange the desires of our heart. The things that motivate us in our natural self most should no longer control us; instead, the love of Christ should control us, the glory of God should control us, and the mind of Christ should control us.
"How do we know if we have idols of our heart? Take them away and watch your reaction. What happens when you don't have power and control? When you don't have peace and serenity? When you don't have respect or security? When you don't have a fat bank account? When you are not recognized for your accomplishments? When you are ignored or humiliated? What happens when you don't get your way? We often don't know our heart is so attached to our idols until they're threatened. Then we fight like mad to keep them!...
"God is a jealous God. He is jealous of our love. When we love things more than him, he hates it. Ephesians 5 says that when we love something, we will nourish and care for it. When we love our idols, we embrace them, devote ourselves to them, and make it our business to please them, whether they be our love of approval, love of money, love of success, love of being right, love of ourselves, love of pleasure, or love of people. We also live in bondage to our fears, such as the fear of conflict, fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of intimacy. Our fears are a helpful way to look at the other side of what we love. For example: We love success; we fear failure. We love peace; we fear conflict. We love to please people and make them happy; we fear disapproval or rejection...
"What rules your heart? What we love most will rule us. Or to put it another way, what we fear losing will control us. God says He is a jealous God and he wants to be first in our heart. Many of us repent of wrong behaviors, even wrong thoughts, but we don't understand that we can't grow to be more like Christ unless our heart loves [Him] more that we love ourselves--or our own desires." (pgs. 94-95, 97)
For a long time, I have struggled with being a person who gets irritated with her children all too easily. I've read books on anger and memorized many Bible verses addressing anger in my longing to change this behavior that I know is sinful. I've made some progress, but much less than I've hoped for. At times my slow change has deeply frunstrated and even confused me. I've tried so hard. The passage above helped me understand that I need to refocus my efforts. I need to stop being so conscious of my responses and become consumed, instead, with loving God. He is worthy of being loved heart, soul and mind, after all.
In the middle of the night, I confessed to God that I don't love Him with all my heart. That was hard to do! I told the Lord that I now recognize that I love myself, being honored by my children, comfort, ease and control of my circumstances more than I love my Him. This was a humbling admission because for years I've convinced myself that I loved God wholeheartedly. But the evidence is irrefutable based on careful contemplation of the passage from Vernick's book.
A discovery like this could leave a person disheartened! However, I feel so hopeful! I know the Lord to be a prayer-answering God. I began to cry out to Him last night to my change my self-centered heart. I told Him emphatically that I want to love Him first and foremost, with heart, soul and mind fervor. I'm excited to see what the Lord will do as He answers my prayer. In the meantime, I will be seeking to know Jesus, since we're told He is the exact representation of His Father. (Hebrews 1:3). I'm thankful for last night's insomnia. The lack of sleep proved to be a vital wake up call!