Thursday, December 19, 2013

With little honesty and only half a heart. . .

Reading blogs is both bane and blessing.  Often it reaps a treasure trove of insight, encouragement, and edification for the heart, soul, and life of the Christian.  Most of the time, however, it just screws with your mind, enrages your heart, and leaves worse than empty.  Unlike so many, I limit most of my browsing time and do not spend time on my so-called smart phone perusing the web.  This is not because I am exceptionally wise, discerning, or even disciplined.  It is simply because, like a diet too rich in the news media, I don't like who I am when I spend too much time on the internet.

There is one blog whose wisdom so often cuts to the quick.  He is the kind of fellow I wish I had been at his age -- he is honest, brutally honest, about his faults, failings, doubts, and fears.  Yet he does not commiserate and bring us down but seems to lift my sagging spirits with the way he addresses the darker side of life as a Christian (not the saint part but the sinner who loves the stain and stink of sin and is not at all sure he wants to give it up anytime soon).

So it was with some fear and trepidation that I read from his blog this paragraph:

As happens so often, I realized that the words spoken by my mouth did not match the thoughts whispered by my heart. Would heaven really be “void and bare” to me if Jesus were not “near me”? Do I honestly have “no pleasure” in the pleasures of earth if the Lord is not “near me”? I may have been singing the hymn with gusto, but not honesty. The reason is found in the opening line of the hymn: “Lord, Thee I love with all my heart,” but, even on my best days, were I to sing honestly, I would say, “Lord, Thee I love with half my heart. The world has claimed the other part.”

Chad Bird has cut me to the quick again...  But then I began to think about it all.  Why bother singing what we do not mean or only mean halfheartedly?   Of course, we are all hypocrites in some measure.  We act a part while a part of us refuses the role.  We live in this tension until the release comes with death and the old, sinful man can touch us no longer.  But this acting is not the rebellion of disbelief; it is the struggle of faith.  Lord, I believe... help my unbelief.  We gain nothing from surrendering to our fears and going off on our own in vain attempt to fix what is wrong with us and eliminate the doubt or darkness within.  We only lose all.

There is great benefit to singing what we only mean with half a heart and there is no benefit at all to the silence that refuses to sing until the whole heart can love and mean every word of it.  How else do we beat down our doubts and rein in our fears?  How else do we train up our hearts for righteousness without speaking what we mean with only half a heart so that by speaking that faith (or singing it) the faith may rule the heart?

It sort of reminds me of those parents whose lofty perception of will leads them to delay baptism and to refrain from teaching the faith to their children so that they can choose for themselves -- a choice that ends up being made to continue the nothing they were raised with.  Funny how we see value to making choices for our children about all sorts of things (toilet training, vaccinations, personal care, etc...) EXCEPT the faith. 

Yes, the truth is that I sing with gusto things I do not mean or only mean halfheartedly BUT this is training in righteousness.  This is how the faith takes more than a mere foothold in my rebellious heart and doubting mind.  This is how I learn to believe and confess the words I sing, making them mine as I learn them from the pen and skill of others first.

Christmas is filled with words we sing with gusto but only half mean.  That does not mean we should shut up.  It means we should sing them more... and more... until by the Spirit's grace we can sing them with the same conviction in our hearts as there is gusto in our voices...

Of course, none of this means anything unless, as the wise Mr. Bird has shown us, we think about this tension between faith and unbelief, confidence and doubt, one half the heart vs the other...  So do not skip over the tension or the contradiction.  In it are keys to a faith grown through doubt and fear and uncertainty because of the Spirit at work through the means of grace.  Lord, I believe... help Thou my unbelief!  Amen, indeed!

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