Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23 - NIVUK)
More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it. (Prov. 4:23 - CEB)
Being in close quarters with others for an extended period of time - even (perhaps, especially) when those others are our family - can bring out both the best and the worst in us. When the best comes out, I'm quick to think highly of myself and how wonderful I was/am. But when the worst comes out . . . I'm pretty quick to cast blame. Of course, I got angry . . . did you hear what he said! Of course, I reacted . . . how could I not when she gave me that look! Pointing the finger of blame at the other has been around since the garden (see Genesis 3). I come from a very, very, very long line of people who like to blame others for my poor decisions. So do you.
But Proverbs 4 suggests that I can't live in a place of blaming others. I have a level of responsibility for my own heart/mind and what comes out of it. I need to take steps to guard it!
There is the old computer adage GIGO. It's an acronym for "Garbage In. Garbage Out." It simply means that the quality of the output cannot be better than the quality of the input. We aren't computers, but the sense that what comes out of us is shaped by what goes into us is certainly true!
I'd like you to consider three questions this week:
- What good am I taking in this week? For thousands of years, Christian teaching has encouraged Jesus followers to take in good so that good will come out! This is merely an echo of what St. Paul wrote this to the church in Phillipi, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." To help good come out . . . put good in!!!
- When I find myself reacting to and blaming others, take some time to consider the following: “I wonder what brought him/her to this belief?” “I wonder what my reaction teaches me about me?” (From EHS Group Guidelines) In order to begin clearing garbage out, we need to begin by identifying it rather than simply blaming others for our reactions.
- What, in my life, do I need help to clear out? It is essential to realize that we aren't solely responsible for everything that goes into our lives - good or bad. Much of the "garbage" that is in us has been put there by others and as it is identified it is likely that you (and I) may not be able to clear it out ourselves. Thankfully, we don't need to! There are three levels of help I would encourage you to explore if you need help clearing out some garbage so that there is room for the good to come in.
- Trusted godly friends. Are there others who are sources of good that you could invite to speak into your life in order to help you process the negative and foster what is good? This is a great starting place. That being said, many of us need to go beyond it.
- Pastoral support. By this, I don't necessarily mean "the pastor." To be pastoral is to be a shepherd. Pastoral support is listening and advice that would come to you from someone who is not a close friend, but someone you trust to speak truth (sometimes hard truth) into your life from a place of love and care. Often the best person to help you with this is someone you respect who is of the same gender as you. We have deacons and staff at Covenant who are open to talk with you, too. Please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or [email protected]
- Professional counseling. In spite of the increasing conversation around mental health, I sense there is still a stigma around working with professional counselors . . . especially within the church. I wish this would go away!! If you want some help building a roof, you call a roofer. If you want help with medical care, you call your doctor. If you want help clearing out the garbage that is in you, call someone who is specially trained to help you do it!!! Some of us have carried around baggage for decades that could have been processed and discarded with the proper assistance. Most professional counselors are offering online therapy these days. A good starting place for you may be free virtual counseling available through Chigamik (https://www.chigamik.ca/your-health/virtual-counselling/). Getting help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of courage!
This message is in no way meant to be a guilt trip to you or anyone else who may be struggling. Much of what we deal with has a source from either outside of us or from things within us that we can't just "stop". But we are faced with decisions about how we will respond to those things. This message is merely an encouragement to take the next step in guarding your heart. You are loved by God and by us exactly as you are, but God desires for you to move deeper into the abundant life he created you for. What is the next right step you can take in that direction this week?
Finally . . . a word to those of you who are already regularly and actively working to process extremely challenging and sometimes even evil realities that have dumped garbage in your life. You are a beloved child of God and he is with you each step of the way. I/we are so, so proud of you as you walk this challenging road.