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Follow Your Heart?


Have you ever seen those teddy bears they used to make for infants that had a device inside that sounded like a beating heart? It was meant to resemble the mother’s heartbeat that the infant had grown so accustomed to hearing in utero. Thunk thunk, thunk thunk. . . the sound that comforts a newborn. Thunk thunk, thunk thunk. . . ahhh all is right in the world. We start our existence hearing the heartbeat of another, even before anyone can hear ours with a doppler device. Soon though we are thrust into the world where the heartbeat of another is only a distant memory. We only hear our own when we get excited or physically active. How are we to know our heart if we cannot hear it? How can we follow our heart if we don’t pay attention to it? What does it mean to follow your heart anyway?

But really, how many times have you heard someone give another person the age old advice, “Follow your heart” as they come to a crossroads and have a decision to make? It seems cliche, because it is, and it seems like good advice, except when it isn’t! It seems to me that too many people are following their hearts and failing to follow THE heart of God. These are not necessarily the same thing. . . one can lead you astray, the other cannot. One seeks self-gratification the other seeks life. I hear teenagers saying it all the time when they come to a critical moment that could lead in a variety of directions. . . or is the culture I hear saying that to them and they grasp onto it for dear life and think they have a right to follow their hearts? We adults do it too, no one is innocent here of buying into this societal notion. . .

Here’s the problem with following your heart as I see it: 1) it’s based on emotion, what feels best in the moment, what might be easiest or most enjoyable; 2) it fails to take into account our responsibility to one another along the way when sometimes following our own heart causes us to hurt others; 3) it completely shirks the notion of hearing and learning from corrective criticism as in “No one can tell me what to do, I am following my heart on this one.”

What if we reworked that saying and made it part of our discipleship journey? Instead of follow your heart we begin to say, “Follow the heart of God.” Two days ago we heard the story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness. St. Luke tells us that Jesus was driven there by the SPIRIT! He followed the heart of God into temptation, danger, loneliness, even the possibility of death. He followed God’s heart by not giving in to temptation, not trying to prove anything, not letting pride get in the way, and not succumbing to the promise of the devil’s hero worship. Even at the end of his life, as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, he asked to be spared of his fate but only if it was God’s will. He only wanted to follow God’s heart. . . that’s because Jesus’ heart IS God’s heart. One and the same. Bigger picture involved. Removal of pain and suffering, not an option.

So following your heart isn’t necessarily a bad thing. . . in fact it’s a good thing when our heart is in tune with God’s heart. When we are out of sync with our heavenly Father we do better to totally follow his heart so we don’t get ourselves in trouble spiritually, emotionally or otherwise. (Problem is when we are out of sync, we are REALLY out of sync and can’t discern God’s heart anyway!)

The promise attached to following God’s heart is that we will never be alone. . . the Spirit will always be with us, guiding us, loving us, walking with us through those valleys of the shadow of death. The only way we can even come close to following God’s heart is to be in touch with him constantly. Lent is a wonderful time to reclaim that connection, a perfect opportunity to listen to the beating of God’s heart as we hear the stories of Jesus’ journey to the cross.

Jesus faithfully and dutifully followed God’s heart, as Jesus heart and God’s heart are one and the same. May our hearts also be one and the same as God’s heart so that we might rest our heads on our Father’s chest and hear the thunk thunk, thunk thunk of true life.


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