When my grandparents were young, during World War II, during the age of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire, people were told that they should have the courage to stand up for what is right.
These days, I hear a lot of people say that we should all have the courage to follow our hearts.
After all, something done spontaneously has more validity, right? Something that comes from the heart means more than something that took a lot of effort?
I hear this from Christians, as well as from the secular world. We are told to take a risk, to have the courage to follow our hearts, our passions, our dreams. We are told that God uses our passions for His glory, so we should take financial and emotional risks, even risks to our family, to do what we are passionate about.
This is what many are taught to believe that Jesus came to model and teach: that “to thine own self be true” is the central goal and task of every man.
This actually sounds a bit like Gnosticism, a philosophy that John spoke out against in the New Testament.
Although an ancient philosophy, see if this sounds familiar today: There is a spark of light hidden in us underneath layers of social and cultural conditioning. Whatever we most truly find within ourselves is right. My heart tells me how things truly are and I must go with my heart.
May I please decry the idea that something done spontaneously has automatic validation while something that is done while following orders or after careful reflection is less valuable or even hypocritical? Thinking carefully about a course of action does not mean that you are being false to yourself.
This all reminds me of the romantic idea of art vs what art really is. The romantic says that art should be effortless, that it should just flow from your heart and soul. The true artist, whether visual arts, music, dance, writing, or any other genre, knows how much hard work and practice it takes to get to the point of seeming effortless.
Perhaps it takes more courage to stick with the hard task, to continue working to provide for your family, to practice patience and self-control every single day than it does to just throw it all away and follow your heart’s desire.
Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” ~ Luke 9.23
In After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (you will be hearing more from this book in coming weeks!), N.T. Wright says that following your heart
tries to get in advance, and without paying the true price, what virtue offers further down the road, and at the cost of genuine moral thought, decision, and effort.
I am not suggesting that what you do only has merit if it is dull and drudging work or that doing what you love is wrong. Yes, God does use our gifts and talents. Yes, sometimes God does call us to do something crazy, something that our world would call foolish.
What I am suggesting is that we should test what is in our hearts before we blindly follow. We should spend time with God, seeking to know what He wants rather than assuming that what is in our hearts is right.
I don’t know about you, but my own heart can be incredibly fickle.
A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart. ~ Prov. 21.2
Perhaps doing only what we love is not always the godly path. More often than not, it seems that the godly path is the harder road to follow.
I promise you, though, it is well worth the work and effort.
Just like a beautiful piece of art.