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Advent: Undivided

 

12-19-11 Undivided

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11, NIV

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19, NIV

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. 1Corinthians 7:35, NIV

I don’t know about you, but I used to wonder why we drilled so much on math. No wait, when I drilled it was called arithmetic. I just had to use my little phrase to even help me spell the word: a rat in the house might eat the ice cream. And now there is no such thing in studies as arithmetic. But I digress.

When I would groan about spending time on my multiplication tables or working out long division, be sure to show your work, my father would always tell me that I would need it someday. Well, at that moment someday looked a long way off when all I wanted to do was go out and play. So even when it came to math I had a divided heart.<

We may not think about the Divided Heart Syndrome, but we live with it every day. Our case may not be as bad as Paul’s (read Roman’s 7 for his symptom description), but we know the way it impacts us: we feel torn between what we know we should, ought, or need to do and what we want to do. This may be as simple as needing to clean out the garage but wanting to sit in front of the TV soaking in every sporting event on a Sunday, or trying to ignore the laundry so that you can sit down with a good book. Those examples probably won’t get you into too much trouble unless your wife wants to park her car in that garage. Where we really get into trouble is when these mundane choices bleed their way into our spiritual life.

I spent a lot of years chasing after perfection in my faith. I thought that if I just read enough scripture, attended enough worship services or Bible studies, prayed hard enough, and devoted myself to service I might achieve it. I really took to heart what I thought Kierkegaard’s “purity of heart is to will one thing.” But the harder I tried the more I wrestled like Paul, the thing that I wanted to do I could not and the thing I didn’t want just seemed to keep on happening. I felt so divided I must have been Humpty Dumpty’s sister.

Slowly, it began to dawn on me that perhaps that to “will one thing” was not the same as to do one thing. I started to believe that the heart of flesh that God wanted to give me wouldn’t necessarily result in a perfection of actions or maybe even attitudes, but it would result in a cleansing of my desires. David writes in Psalm 37:4 that if we will delight ourselves in Him that he will give us our heart’s desires. I no longer see this as God donning a Santa suit and filling my grown up wish list, but that he will put in my heart the desire to desire things he desires. And then, I will find the will to will one thing.

So are you feeling a bit scattered? Oddly enough, ‘tis the season. How crazy is that? In the season when we should be the most focused, we find ourselves the most out of focus. When a spirit of Thanksgiving should waltz us right to the manger, we find ourselves quick stepping all over the place.

My prayer for all of us today is that we would be willing to stop the division and allow God to place in our hearts the desire to live by a unified spirit. He does an amazing job of bringing the pieces together if we’ll let Him.

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