Sunday, November 03, 2013

Heart Focus

Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychologist, who was thrown into a Nazi death camp during World War II. During his internment, like everyone else, he spent most of his time trying to stay alive. But, almost on reflex, he observed others captive in that environment and later, used his observations to try and explain people's hearts.

He observed people, who were physically fit and healthy, weaken and die. Or they would commit suicide by throwing themselves on the electrified fence. On the other hand, a puny, sickly person with asthma, anemia, and a heart condition would survive well past the end of the war. Physically, the first person was much more capable of survival than the second. He decided that the reason the first person died, and the second person lived, must lie somewhere in their inner life. So, he investigated. What he discovered was that those who survived had something to focus on in the future after all that they had experienced in the present was over. The survivors set their hearts on seeing family, finishing a project or visiting somewhere. And those who died had nothing to set their hearts on.

There seems to be a law -- almost -- that what a person focuses his heart on is drawn to that person. Those who focused on doing and being in the future, drew it to them. Those who had no focus drew the end to them.

I don't really know if I could explain how this law works fully. There does seem to be people who focus their hearts on gaining money or success, and those things seem drawn to them like a magnet. Of course, the focus compels them to act in a particular way ... and maybe that's the secret. Sitting down, closing your eyes and intoning like a mantra, "Money! Money! Money!" -- all the while visualizing small pictures of Washington, Lincoln and Jackson floating toward you, forming nice neat piles in from of you -- seems like a silly way to provide for your family.

All of this, of course, is an introduction to a passage of Scripture I have been thinking about.

Paul was addressing a group of God's family. He begins by telling them that he is confident that the Holy Spirit is flowing through him into their lives, because he can see the transformation occurring in them. He is confident that God is glorified, not because of his work, but because of the Spirit's work. It demonstrates the superiority of the new covenant of grace over the old covenant of law. The old temporary and it resulted in death; the new is eternal and results in life. In the old, we really could not fully understand God's nature and character, because there was a hindrance in our lives. In the new, we can see him more fully, because the hindrance was removed.

Now, here is the part I am concentrating on. I confess I don't feel like I completely understand ... indeed, I may be totally wrong. I feel like Paul uses more poetic language here, which may be part of the problem. But here is what it seems to me he is saying:

Since, we are not hindered from seeing the nature and character of God more fully. And as we see him, as we focus our hearts on him, we draw the focus of God to us. God reciprocates. So, like the "law" Victor Frankl seemed to propose, we draw God and God's nature to us, as we focus on him. His grace fills our hearts and transforms our hearts, which in turn transforms our thoughts, words and deeds. If I understand this correctly, one tool for transformation is our heart focus, Worship, prayer and meditation become means of growth, not just means of relationship.

Maybe steps of relationship are steps of growth. 

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