Long Read: Heart first, then reason
Nine years ago my daughter had an event which put her in the ICU for ten days. While experiencing a lengthy seizure in the hospital, the nurse told us she would be fine as long as the seizure did not last more than five minutes. After few minutes passed the on-staff doctor had an oxygen tube inserted and she continued to seize. It went on for thirty two more minutes.
Elora and I were devastated. They heavily sedated her and put her in intensive care. Unconscious, with tubes and medical tech beeping, we kept asking the nurses if she would be ok. The neurologist had seen her shortly after they stabilized her but left before we were allowed on the unit. So when we asked the nurses if she was ok, they would defer to the neurologist for a prognosis. He wouldn’t be in until the following morning.
Six years earlier, when I was in college, there was lots of discussion around prosperity ministers parting and parceling the biblical text to support their preferable world view. I went to a particular christian school which focused much time building influence around the subject. Taking individual scriptures by themselves, one could construct a fairly robust defense around the idea the Lord wants each of us to be incredibly wealthy and happiness is found in money. Among the student body, we certainly saw the extreme error in some of the theology and wrestled well with it. Finding truth where we could and discarding the rest.
At the time, with the help of some very thoughtful and excellent professors, we understood this idea of grabbing particular scriptures to construct a worldview on your own terms was a tragedy and the source of much pain.
And now, as I look into how many well meaning Christians are thinking today, I see so many getting hung up on specific scriptures, taken out of context, to either discount the greater truths of the Word of God or to justify activities and actions which clearly hurt others, leave folks lonely and unfulfilled. It is the same problem, morphed into a new reality. I figure we will try this again in some new way a generation from now.
The following morning, the neurologist came into our hospital room. We rushed to him with the question we wrestled with minute by minute the previous sleepless night. “Is she going to be ok? Is there brain damage?”
His answer floored us.
“Why would you think such a thing? She had oxygen from the beginning.” He went on to explain in kind terms, “folks do not get brain damage from seizures but from the lack of oxygen during a seizure of this type.” Although we had some information, without considering it all, we were doomed to assumptions and had false beliefs about the future.
Our question regarding our daughters wellbeing is not uncommon. Regarding our spiritual selves it is universal. “Will we be okay, God?” “Will you protect me? Take care of me? Be alongside me?”
“Are You good?”
Blaise Pascal wrote “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.”
When I read the Word, I come at it heart first. I let it witness to my insides and enjoy the goodness, mercy and wholeness the entire story brings. I see every last bit of it as a tiny pieces of a larger story. The story of my redemption. A story of my rescue from sin.
My professor of Old Testament, a lady, proclaimed this broad story a love story between a lover and His bride. At times she was faithful at times she was wayward. Yet the Lover in this story is filled with faithfulness, mercy and dignity regardless of his brides state of goodness. Starting in Genesis, revealing the bride’s creation, then her infidelity, leading into the new testament her restoration, finally the story ends, for me, in Revelation with Jesus bringing justice to all mankind.
The Bible is a story of redemption and goodness. As I read it, with an open mind and an open heart, not justifying my point of view but instead letting it shape and mold my heart, the reason follows.
My heart first, then reason. Like Blaise, I am looking not to justify my point of view but to instead see the Father revealed.
Here is the most toxic part of reading the bible in the context of justifying one’s own world view. When done this way, one will paint the wrong picture of who the Lord is. The Father will be far too reasonable, finite and confusing. He will be limited like a human. He will be something much smaller and diminished.
I am a mystic, I know. I am a lover. I want to live from my heart. And I am not willing to let a parcel of the larger story misalign the Person who walks among its words. Like leaving out one key piece medical of information, the oxygen, I recoil and experience sleepless nights when I read the Word any other way. The Father becomes a manipulitative task master who is just trying to get me to behave. No, the word is not about barking orders instead it whispers to my heart.
In context the Word becomes flesh and comes to be with me. I am done in. I could never make Him into just words typed on a page again.
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.