Heart: Living Out Your God-Given Passions
The Book of Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts above all else. Similarly, when asked about the greatest commandment of all, Jesus referenced the heart: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind”(Mark 12:30). It’s clear that God designed our hearts as an integral part of our spiritual journey. He is delighted when we walk with Him in the strength of the heart-felt passions He built into us.
At the same time, plunging into the deep places of our hearts can be scary. Our hearts are very personal. We need to be able to trust that the reward will be worth the risk.
→Discussion: What do you think the nine-year-old girl in the ski jump video is feeling and thinking?
What things help her to commit to making the jump? How would you feel in her place?
What is the reward a waiting us? Life in its fulness, the kind of life we taste now and then, that always leaves us wanting more. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
It can feel risky to take this vulnerable step of looking within, to see both the promise and the places where the enemy of our hearts has hurt us. But only by doing this are we free to live in the fullness that Jesus longs for us to experience, and to put our passions to work in the world.
Part 1: Your Heart is Unique
Though we all have a deep longing to connect to the life of our hearts, what this looks like can be different for each of us. Give yourself permission to search for personal expressions of the passions God has built into you, rather than rushing to cookie-cutter answers. Don’t get sidetracked into comparing yourself, or trying to live out someone else ’s passion.
Another way we are all different: some things close to our hearts we recognize and express easily. Others we may not clearly recognize, or may not feel comfortable sharing. That’s okay: It’s important to find a way of expressing and acting that fits you. While this doesn’t happen overnight, it can begin today if you will commit to leaning in and listening to your life story.
This listening will likely take you back to a young age, to your early dreams and aspirations. But soon it will also take you to something more painful, that unfortunately must also be faced.
Part 2: A Loss of Heart
It’s no coincidence that early in our lives, we all suffer personal, targeted attacks designed to make us question the truth and goodness of our hearts — and of God’s plan. These wounds come from family members, from people we trust, or from interpretations of our experiences. The enemy of our souls wants to drive us away from our hearts, from the source of what John Eldredge calls “the intimacy, beauty and adventure of life with God” (The Sacred Romance).
In order to draw again from that wellspring of life, it is vitally important to acknowledge the core wounding we have received, and the lies that came with it. Uncovering the lies embedded in our hearts can point us toward God’s truth, and help us reconnect with our hearts’ desires.
Though each person’s wound is different, please take a moment to sit with the expressions below. You may find one of them poking a sore spot. See this as an invitation to lean in and invite God to uncover His truth.
Expressions of the wound:
- “I will never be good enough.”
- “I’ll never have the love I want.”
- “Nobody sees me.”
- “I am dirty.”
- “Nobody will protect me.”
- “I am abandoned and I can’t understand why.”
- “The real me will always be rejected.”
- “The world is dangerous and disaster is around the corner.”
→Discussion: In the video clip, what expression of heart is the son trying to communicate to his dad? What wounding message does he receive? What thoughts or feelings does this clip bring up for you?
Part 3: The False Self
Once we have allowed these wounding messages to define us, it is far too painful to live in their presence day after day. So we do our best to cover the wound with a story or a personal vow that makes the pain manageable.
- “Someday I’ll be perfect.”
- “I won’t ever want too much.”
- “I’m a natural winner.”
- “Other people have needs but I don’t.”
- “If I am positive and helpful, people will like me.”
- “I can take care of myself.”
- “I am unique and nobody really gets that.”
- “I can keep my world predictable.”
These “false selves” help us get through tough times. But they are not the full life Jesus intends for us. In her book Self to Lose, Self to Find, Marilyn Vancil compares the false self to a seed’s tough outer shell — the part that keeps the tender kernel within safe, but also the part that must fall away for the seed to sprout as nature intends.
This is Jesus’ invitation to each of us: Let Him carry our false self to the cross, so that He can reveal our true hearts’ desires. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” -John 12:24(ESV)
→Discussion: Talk through the expressions of false self above. What kinds of life experiences lead people to build these stories around themselves? Do any of them connect with you personally? What kind of relational damage can result when people enter into Christian ministry and relationships in the power of a false self?
Part 4: Restoring Heart
How do we reconnect with the tender heart hidden beneath the shell of our false selves? How can we tap into the unique passions that God planted within us? Here are some suggestions for a next step:
→ Get away. Spend time alone and away from your routine. Drive to a coffee shop in a new town. Turn down the noise of daily life. Go for a walk in the woods.
→ Ask God. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Intentionally ask Him to uncover and affirm your heart’s desires through His Spirit.
→ Reflect. Søren Kierkegaard noted, “Life can only be understood backwards.” Looking back may help you see some of the big-picture patterns and passions that your life expresses. Here are some suggestions:
- Meditate on Psalm 139
- Start keeping a journal (Find helpful tips here.)
- Talk to a friend or family member who knows you well
- Meet with a Christian counselor
- Create a timeline of important events in your life. Where has God met you along the way, and how could he use your growth in the lives of others? “We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have been comforted by” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Part 5: Stepping Out
As you sense the invitation of a heart-felt passion, it’s time to step out boldly. What will this look like? Hard to say, but it will probably feel risky — maybe like going off a ski jump. God may draw you toward pioneering a new area of expressing His love. Or He might lead you to build up areas others are already investing in. Resist the urge to compare with what He is doing through others — this is your life adventure, not theirs!
At the same time, a little guidance can be helpful. Our pastoral team has worked hard to discern a number of broad areas where we feel our church body is uniquely equipped to express God’s heart. We would love to sit down and explore some of these passions with you.
A few guiding questions:
- What is one event from the life of Jesus that speaks deeply to you, and what does it reveal about God’s heart?
- What areas of service have brought you joy in the past?
- What needs touch you the most? The following list expands on the one found at www.freeshapetest.com. Bold items indicate active ministry areas here at Westminster:
3. At-risk children
4. Compulsive behavior
5. Crossing cultures
8. Drug abuse/recovery
10. Financial stewardship
14. The next generation
15. Marriage/family issues
16. Music/artistic expression
21. Sanctity of Life
22. Social justice / equity
23. Spiritual laziness
24. More: _______________
If your step into an area of passion doesn’t turn out the way you thought, be kind to yourself and try to consider it a learning experience. Then do some more praying and reflecting, and step out again, convinced that the reward is worth the risk.
The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge. Nelson,1997.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Nelson, 2001.
Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge. Nelson, 2005.
Self to Lose, Self to Find by Marilyn Vancil. Redemption Press, 2016.
Next we will be looking at “A” for Abilities.