This photo (found on Facebook) reflects a false, either/or view of Christian spirituality.
It assumes that a) respecting, serving, growing and happiness of ‘you’ and b) respecting, serving, growing and happiness of ‘God’ are in direct and total contradiction. To quote Hannah Moore from the film ‘Amazing Grace’, “we humbly suggest you can do both.”
I suspect that the person making these ‘corrections’ to the original photo probably meant well, and I agree that a ‘humanism’ that defines itself as being over-and-against (or otherwise independent of) God is counter to Scripture and the Gospel. But I deny that loving yourself is in tension with loving God or others. Indeed, based on Christ’s epitomisation of the entire Law (i.e. Mark 12:29-31), I’m inclined to believe that Love of God, others and self are inseparable.
The phrase ‘follow your heart’ ((it’s what Napoleon Dynamite does)) is one of many popular un-wisdoms. Phrases that sound nice entering and leaving your consciousness. The heart, Hebrew prophet Jeremiah (and many an atheist) reminds us, is desperately wicked and is not to be trusted as a guide for one’s life. I know my own ‘heart’ well enough to know not to follow it wherever it leads.
But there is something ugly and inhumane about the opposite of the ‘follow your heart’ mantra – which is ‘forget ((or other more colourful words beginning with ‘f’…)) your heart’. In addition to being cold, unfeeling, uncompassionate, and (quite literally) apathetic, this kind of heart-burying fails to recognise (for all of it’s supposed cognisant ability) that we live out of our hearts. We can try to live by the strength of what you ‘know’ you want to do, but eventually what we ‘feel’ we want to do surfaces.
I think popular discourse presents an ugly false choice between ‘follow your heart’ romanticism and ‘forget your heart’ rationalism. Could there be a third, more genuinely human, way?
Typically, we think of the ‘heart’ as a kind of emotional, fuzzy part of ourselves that just really ‘likes’ things. I heard again this Sunday ((hat tip to NBC senior pastor Peter Eaton, recently back from sabbatical in Israel)) that the Hebrew word for heart means the seat of the will that involves both thoughts and emotions. I like this, because I happen to think ((try to write a post about thoughts/emotions and use phrases other than ‘i think’, ‘i feel’, ‘i reckon’ or others)) that our best reasoned thinking and our best and deepest longings sharpen one another.
Because in order to be fully human, we don’t need to foolishly affirm and obey our hearts as they are. Nor will it make us more human to impatiently lambaste our hearts. Rather, we need to have our ‘heart’ sharpened, shaped, transformed and renewed. We need a change of heart.