Into My Heart
Think about this scenario. Imagine I am a young man hungry to have someone with whom I can share affection. One day an attractive young woman catches my eye. She is not only pretty but has a very pleasant personality. Just the kind of person I want in my life, I decide. So I begin planning ways of trying to let her know I am interested in her hoping she will be willing to take an interest in me.
Time passes as incidental encounters are leveraged to convey messages that there is desire on my part to be more than just a stranger to her. Fortunately she does not write me off, but neither does she open up easily to make herself available. Most likely she is doing her own due diligence to find out more about me, asking others who know me what kind of person I am and studying me from a distance. There is no shortage of men looking for cheap thrills at the expense of a pretty girl, and she has no intention of becoming another trophy for some guy's short-term plans. She wants someone who is for keeps – for life. So she is not going to be too openly responsive if she decides to open up at all.
More time passes. Slowly a friendship of mutual respect begins to develop, though from my perspective it is painfully slow. My heart is feeling very empty and in urgent need of love and affection and this drawn out process can seem like torture at times. But I know that finding a true love that will last requires willingness to take the long road toward intimacy, so I grudgingly cooperate with her insistence on slow progress even though I don't always like it. At least having a friend, even one who warms up slowly, is better than not having any. On top of that neither do I want to get involved in an affair with a girl who is willing to give her body away easily in exchange for short term affections either. I know the kind of emotional scars that can bring along with many other unknown physical risks. So I decide to stick with the girl that is willing to slowly respond to my attentions.
At last there comes a point in our relationship where I feel she trusts me enough to go beyond more than just casual conversation or oblique inferences to becoming more serious. I feel she has had enough time to know I am serious about pursing a more committed relationship with her, and hopefully she is willing to make a similar commitment, or at least willing to move in that direction. So I begin to think of ways I might get her to take me more seriously, what I might say to invite her to really start loving me more. What would be the best words to express that I want to enjoy her love and if possible consider seriously forming a permanent bond?
I decide I have found just the right words to describe effectively how I want her to relate to me. I have heard this phrase used frequently by others most of my life, a phrase related to loving in a long term relationship, so I am confident it would be just the thing to say so she will know for certain that I desire her heart.
Finally the right time arrives. No background distractions and we feel comfortable with each other. She is relaxed and in a good mood as we eat together at our favorite hangout. I feel she is willing to move ahead in our relationship. There does not seem to be anything obstacles she might be concerned about. She has known me long enough to trust me. I am not thinking here of getting engaged. That is still a ways off in our relationship. But I do want to make our friendship a more formal and exclusive and I feel she has come to where she might be willing. So at just the right moment in the flow of our quiet conversation I finally get the courage to say the magic words.
“Suzy, I want to ask you to come into my heart today!”
There, I said it. I am sure she knows exactly how I am feeling and hopefully will respond with immediate affirmation so we can be headed for eventual marital bliss before too long.
But to my chagrin her reaction is neither positive nor negative but is completely unexpected. At first she has a confused, bewildered look on her face as she stares at me for a few moments. Then suddenly she starts giggling. After a few awkward moments of consternation on my part it starts to get even worse as her giggling turns int unsuccessful attempts to suppress outright laughter.
By this time I am feeling intimidated, humiliated and almost despairing. Is she making fun of me? Has she just been playing along all this time, taking advantage of my friendship? Why do I feel betrayed? I must have missed a lot of cues along the way and maybe I am clueless as to what her disposition is towards me. I feel terrified that I may have just blown everything I have spent so long investing into this relationship. My heart feels like running for a place to hide and I want to crawl under the table and slink out the door. I have no idea what to do now for I made no contingency plans for failure. Now I am feeling helpless and vulnerable as my confusion turns into to shame and fear.
But let me ask you here, was there any possible confusion induced by the words I chose to invite Suzy into a more committed long-term relationship with me? After all, doesn't everyone know what it means to “come into my heart”? After all, most people raised Christian have been raised carefully instructed to invite Jesus into our heart. So if we want to supposed to have a relationship of love with Jesus by asking Him into our heart, why shouldn't the same thing work to get into a relationship of love with another person? What caused Suzy to react so disconcertingly?
If you are like me you are probably either smiling right now or just rolling your eyes. What a dumb thing to say to a woman you want to fall in love with you – right? Who ever heard of going up to someone they want to be closer friends with and making such a proposal? To get into an emotionally intimate relationship with someone we don't use language like that, at least I have never heard of anyone doing it. We have many other ways of communicating our desires for love, but I don't ever recall anyone every asking someone into a deeper relationship to come into their heart.
It occurred to me this morning that this disjuncture may well be one of the roadblocks that has prevented many from making sense of religious jargon for a long time. I don't know how many times I have heard things similar to this. You as Jesus to come into your heart. Or a similar instruction that is not much clearer. You need to give your heart to Jesus. How many others have tried to make sense of this over the years?
How many times these kinds of phrases cause confusion and questions in children and even adults who are just expected to know what these words mean. And when they to try to understand what it means by questioning, the explanations often infer that this is sort of code language used in religion and people should not question too much or try to figure it out. There are a lot of code phrases and words used in religion that don't connect well with practical life. It seems presumed that if you will just learn to use the language like the experts who instructed you, when you learn to string together important-sounding phrases and religious lingo effectively enough, then you might also become an expert who can then train others in who to become proficient in this specialty field.
Of course we don't say it quite this way because that would make religion appear to be irrelevant. Yet after spending years asking questions only to receive a litany of clichés and circular reasoning in return, I finally decided that either the people I was asking didn't know for sure themselves but were unwilling to admit it, or I just wasn't initiated enough to know what all this stuff really meant. The unspoken message was that if I would just hang in there long enough and learn the jargon and how to patch texts together the right way, then someday the lingo would finally make sense and might even effect my own life; I might even figure out what God intended for me to do to get into heaven.
Honestly, how many times have we heard someone asking another person to come into their heart? How many women would approach that handsome hulk and ask him to come into her heart? Yet even discussing this can arouse a sense that maybe asking this question is irreligious and I should be censured. That is the intimidation I have felt much my life any time I tried to sort out religious jargon or discover the real meaning of vague words I was just supposed to know based on the circular explanations that never seemed to connect with the practical everyday life outside of church.
For a number of years now I have chosen to challenge the words and phrases that frustrated me for so long. Dissatisfied with the shallow or confusing definitions offered, I felt there had to be something better, more practical. It has not been unusual for people I was ask to start feeling uneasy or simply hand me some ultimatum-sounding declaration to close the conversation, not unlike a veiled threat that I must simply accept the standard assumptions and steer clear of too many questions. Questions are often viewed as a threat by those in arbitrary authority. They are afraid of losing control and influence so they feel compelled to suppress such impertinence that might undermine their credibility.
I finally realized that if I was to become an intelligent Christian and not just accept dissatisfying circular explanations from so-called experts, I needed to go to the source myself and find out if God would be willing to show me more satisfying truth. I am glad to testify that God is not only faithful but is eager to listen and respond to requests by all who are serious about wanting to know more about Him for themselves. For years now God has been leading me, even tutoring and teaching me directly from His Word as well as insights brought by His Spirit. I have come to find that the best way to discover actual meaning of religious words and phrases is by allowing the Bible to be the primary source to define itself. I was taught that principle growing up but was not trained how to practice it effectively.
This does not mean it is necessarily easy to do at first. The Bible is a large collection of widely varying topics, writers and styles and even prejudices. But the longer I pursue looking for truth in this book the more evidence I find that the same Spirit inspired all of it, despite the fact that there are things that apparently contradict each other in a surface reading. Yet there is enough information contained in the complete text of this book for an honest and humble seeker to find satisfying answers and more if they seek the Spirit's guidance as they pursue the real truth about God and what He is like in His Word.
What has become most clear of all to me in recent years is one paradigm that must be embraced to help get past the confusion and seeming contradictions in the Bible. Without this foundational presumption the arguments are endless and confusion and prejudices abound. What I am coming to see and cling to more than any other fact is that Jesus and Jesus alone is the only reliable interpreter for everything else, especially the opinions and feeling I come to have about God.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
If Jesus is exactly like God as He told Philip in the upper room, and if Jesus is the only one who can effectively connect me with the love of God, where does this idiom of asking Jesus into my heart fit in? That is not language that makes sense in normal life and I don't believe it is even found in Scripture.
Out of curiosity I just did a word search in the Bible for every verse containing both the word heart and Jesus to see what might show up. As is often the case, the results brought interesting results with important insights. Every instance listed that related directly to Jesus are when He told people to take heart except one time when He warned people about their hardness of heart. Beyond that I find a reference in Romans where we are instructed to believe with our heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. That is it. No references about asking Jesus into our heart or anything even similar.
So where did this common religious cliché originate? I have no idea at this point. But it is good to know it didn't come from the Bible, and that might explain why it seems so confusing.
What I do find that is explained by Jesus is the concept of abiding or dwelling in Christ and how Christ and the Father want to dwell inside of us. Even that can seem a bit mysterious and I would still find it a stretch to imagine a guy asking a girl to dwell in him. But I can see asking someone to hang out more with me so we could get better acquainted. That is language that makes sense to us, and I believe if religion cannot make connection with everyday life then it becomes irrelevant or worse, misleading.
I want to simplify what I believe has for too long been made too complex. Jesus came to show us that coming to God does not have to be complicated. But what I am learning is that most often the confusion is not because God wants us to be confused but often is because the way we process things in our brains is based on logic that does not live in the reality God wants to bring us into.
We all make decisions and process information based on many assumptions. I learned this important fact in computer programming school This is necessary to function efficiently but is also why we have much confusion when it comes to true spirituality. If we are unwilling or unable to discern and challenge our underlying assumptions we will not be able to make sense out of spiritual realities. Jesus made this clear in His words to Nicodemus, and Paul explained that only the spiritual-minded can communicate clearly with each other. Those operating in selfishness (the flesh) simply cannot make sense of language and thinking based on agape love as its context and presuppositions.
Having said that, I still think it is helpful to examine the way we say things to each other and especially how we communicate with those who are immature or don't even know God. We need to learn from Jesus how to love people unconditionally, not expecting them to understand our lingo but adapting our communication to use language that makes sense to them. And in the process we often discover that truth can start to make a whole lot more sense to us at the same time.