Thursday, November 05, 2015

Heart Vs Head

In the last few weeks, I have encountered several conversations where someone said, "You can't learn this with your head, you need to learn it with you heart." I confess this causes some problems for me.

Years ago, I ran into the term "heart" in the Bible, and, given the different ways the word is used in English, I wrestled some with understanding it. After going through a process -- too long to describe here, even if I could remember it -- I decided that "heart" was a lot like the physics term "center of mass." The center of mass is a point in an object that if you pushed that point, you could say you pushed the object. The point defined the object in a way.

"Heart" defined the "center of personality." A word that encapsulated a person's entire inner life. All emotional, cognitive, volitional and spiritual aspects of a person's life lie in his heart. They co-mingle, relate and are interdependent. Common thinking compartmentalizes these things.

Recently, I looked at these things again. Evidently, the people in Jesus' day had a similar view. Both Greeks and Hebrews, as far as I can tell, had a word that is translated "heart" into English, but comprises the entire inner being. Not just emotional or spiritual, but intellect, imagination, volition ... all of these are put in one box and decorated with a big, red bow. Your spirit is not separate from your mind. They are joined.

So, when someone says "heart, not mind," are they saying in order to learn something I have to shut my brain off? Or are they saying I need to go through a particular experience, and meditating on Scripture just won't cut it.

I understand the difference between knowledge and experience. It is one thing for your mother to say, "Don't touch the hot stove. You will get burned and it will hurt." It is another to touch the hot stove. You will learn from both. The latter will take the learning process an order of magnitude further.

Even so, my mind gets engaged. Any experience I have gets recorded and stored in memory. Vivid experiences get marked for easier recall. And I automatically go I to evaluation mode. Is it good? Bad. Pleasant? Painful?

Part of the transformation/restoration process is learning "spiritual discernment." God doesn't want spiritual babies. He wants spiritual men and  women, who are wise, compassionate and effective partners. They enter into situations and see them as God sees them. They feel as God feels about them. They judge as God judges. I am not talking about condemning. But God does look at all decisions and circumstances, and asks "Does this advance my kingdom? Does this demonstrate love? Is this good for my children and family? How should I speak into this to bring out the most good?"

We all practice this discernment at some level. Part of God's transforming process is the adjustment of our "mental filters" so we have his perspective.

People naturally try to simplify situations in order to deal with complexity. One tool of simplification is compartmentalization. We break down different parts of life into separate rooms. I don't blame people for it. I do it also. But life is not a bunch of separate rooms. It flows and runs together. The cooking,  cleaning,  sleeping and laundry are all done in one really,  big room. God works to bring a pattern and a rhythm to this chaos. And we become more authentic, integrated and whole as we learn to live it and embrace it.

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