|Posted by Susan McGeown on December 31, 2017 at 4:45 PM|
In 2007, I published one of my first nonfiction attempts, BIBLICAL WOMEN AND WHO THEY HOOKED UP WITH. It's a great way to start a new year, so I thought I'd post it, chapter by chapter over the next few weeks for anyone who is interested in reading it. I'd love to hear your thoughts!! Enjoy.
A Heartfelt Introduction
Your Heart’s Condition
Every relationship in your life past, present, and future is directly related to the state of your heart. That means whom you love and whom you hate, whom you are repulsed by and whom you are drawn to, whom you befriend and whom you choose to call enemy is all wrapped up with the internal, invisible, mysterious part of you. There is no exception to this rule. We call this “core” of ourselves our heart.
The state of your heart is the very essence of who you are as an individual. That means the reason people love you or hate you, seek you out or avoid you, trust or mistrust you is totally reliant on the person you project to the world. While other people’s hearts and the image they project to the world are also viable factors in any relationship, if you are almost always the one who is wronged, abandoned, angered, unloved, avoided, fired, accused, or left out, then that is a pretty big personal message about you and the condition of your heart. Life is not about lousy coincidences or bad luck. There is no such thing.
Who you are as an individual is matchless, one of a kind. That means you’re priceless. Irreplaceable. It means that all the qualities that you have inside you are all part of the precious person that you are. Do you remember the exact words to every top forties song that’s ever been sung? Is it impossible for you to understand even the rudimentary concepts of basic algebra? Believe it or not: it’s all necessary.
The unique person that you are is precisely designed and carefully and specifically created by God. Which means that the way you are is the way God wants you to be. More than that, God planned for your existence and the very person you were born to be with more precision than a rocket scientist puts into his or her life’s work. Not only are all your talents and foibles accurate, they were desired and planned for to make you the person God needed you to be today.
God does not make mistakes. The very person you are as you sit and read this is exactly the person God needs you to be:
- The person who gets pure enjoyment from spending hours upon hours being lost in the magic of painting a picture.
- The person who is poetry in motion, cooking up a spur of the moment meal using just the leftovers in the family fridge.
- The person who can listen to a car engine and know exactly what is making that funny rattle.
- The person who needs only to hear a person’s name once and never forgets it.
In addition, your weaknesses are the very areas in which God intends to show His greatest strengths. Your talents are the very tools with which God intends to show you your greatest joy. Your passions and loves are the directions in which God intends to lead you on this journey called life. You’ve got everything you need to succeed.
First Things First
Question to ask yourself before you read any further: If everything in your life is keyed into your heart’s condition, what do your life and your relationships reveal about you? What kind of shape is your heart in?
Connections: Do any of these words apply to you: faithful, believer, self-confident, strong, trusting, honorable, reliable, joyful, or wise? Would you like them to? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of aspiring to be like someone else, you liked everything about the woman that you are and wouldn’t change a thing?
What the Bible says about you:
- Womb time: Job 10:10-12, Psalm 139:13
- When your education started: Psalm 51:5-6
- God’s awareness of you: Jeremiah 1:5a
- God’s protection of you: Psalm 139:14-16
- Who designed you: Isaiah 64:8
The Core Story: The Facts vs. The Reality
So if all of the above is true, why are people so unhappy? While we spend precious parts of our life dreaming of what we wish we could be, we miss out on the greatness of what we already are. Why do so many people feel lost? It’s all about the state of our hearts. Our hearts lack faith, self-confidence, belief, trust, strength, commitment … We might talk the talk but we don’t always walk the walk. “I believe, it’s just …” “I know we’re supposed to have faith, but …” “I’m never good at …” “I have trouble sticking to …” More often than not we are more steadfast in our excuses as to why we can’t, than why we can.
Our heart, when spoken of in the Bible, is the special thing that makes us unique and precious from all of God’s other creations. It is from “deep in your heart” where “true knowledge exists.” (Joshua 23:14) According to Job, instinct comes from the mind but intuition comes from the heart. (Job 38:36) The animal world is loaded with instinctual behaviors while we human beings are pretty helpless right from the start. But this ability to be intuitive – knowing or sensing or understanding something without being able to rationally explain it all - ratchets us right up there to the top of the earthly living population. Only we have the ability to function according to our own free will. In giving us the ability to choose how we live, God gave only us the ability to please or disappoint Him.
Biblical author Amos said, “For the Lord is the one who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals His thoughts to mankind.” (Amos 4:13a) We’re the only creatures God talks to and reveals His thoughts to. Whispers His desires and plans. Gives His instructions and commands. He does this through the inside being that we are – our hearts.
The Inside Vs. The Outside
It’s your inside person that God looks at and values. He couldn’t care less about your job title, your bank account balance, or the number of wrinkles you have on your face. The Bible talks about this inside and outside concept a lot. Samuel as he searched for Israel’s new king was told specifically not to judge by appearance alone. Isaiah states clearly that Christ will “not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.” (Isaiah 11:3) The truth of who you are inside is all He cares about, and it’s where all of the most important things that He has given you come from. Not only does God delight in your uniqueness, He specifically desires for you to be one of a kind. He doesn’t want you to be like anyone else because He already thinks you have everything you need to become the person He wants you to be.
This life we live is one gigantic testing ground where we fumble and grope to succeed. And whether we are born rich, handicapped, talented, intelligent, or disadvantaged, I firmly believe that the course of a lifetime pretty much levels the playing field for all of us. For you see, the measure of a person’s true success is not determined by the world’s standards but by God’s. The promise of salvation through Christ is the great equalizer. Our success is not dependent on anything but the choice we make or don’t make to have Him at the center of … you guessed it … our heart.
Once we choose the correct spiritual path, the different tools we have in our spiritual toolbox helps us refine the person God needs us to be. Are we using our God-given talents for Him? Are we utilizing those things that we enjoy doing towards godly pursuits? Does the primary way that we spend our time have a God-related tone to it? Are we making God smile?
Sigh. The human race hasn’t done a very good job in the listening and pleasing department. Right off the bat when the evilness of mankind got so bad “that every inclination of the thoughts of mankind’s heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5) God regretted ever making mankind, saying specifically, “it broke His heart.” (Genesis 6:6)
On the flip side, “heart’s desires” (Job 17:11) are the most precious things we could imagine having or achieving. Only those whose hearts are “true and right” are the ones whom God shields and protects. (Psalm 7:10) Finally, a person “after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14) is the epitome of mankind’s God directed goals.
Obviously, from the biblical perspective the heart is the definitive way to measure a person’s credibility and worthiness. So, I’ll ask you: How’re your insides? Or, more specifically, are you a person “after God’s own heart”?
The World vs. The Promise
Unfortunately, the way of this world draws us in the opposite direction from God’s own heart.
In fact, despite the apparent value of our heart, we seem to spend a significant part of our life trying to mask, ignore, or downright disobey it, don’t we? We are repeatedly embarrassed by personal qualities that make us unique from others. “I wish I wasn’t so outspoken …” We regularly don’t value our own worth and let others redefine it to their standards. “I thought it was a good idea, but everyone else …” We allow ourselves to become involved in situations that do not afford us the respect we deserve. “I knew it was a mistake when he invited me back to his apartment, but …” We doubt ourselves and what we know to be right. “I know it wasn’t the best thing to do, but …”
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we distance ourselves from God.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we accumulate mistakes, failures, and missed opportunities that keep us from forging positively ahead into the future.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so we lose sight of the person God wants us to be.
- We ignore our heart and miss joyful experiences that we are meant to have.
- We ignore our heart, and in doing so do not fulfill the job that only we are capable of doing.
- We ignore our heart, and end up in a place that is sad, dark, lonely, and hopeless.
Our job here on earth is to continually ‘shore up’ our heart: get it right, make it strong, start anew, and become improved … GROW. The Bible addresses that, too. “Becoming a new person” affords those of us with a past as bleak as a burned out forest the opportunity to get away from the smoke and ash. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states clearly, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
We human beings just don’t appreciate the magnitude of this promise. We repeatedly don’t believe it, nor do we take advantage of it. “My whole life is and always will be a disaster.” “I’ve got things in my past that are too big to forget.” “I’ve got bad luck.” “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” “I’ve got issues.” The first step to a changed heart is to step out on faith and believe. Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary. Give God the opportunity to show you what your life can be.
Rationalize this for me: if God is willing to forgive and forget everything bad about you and your past, why can’t you? Usually it’s because forgiving and forgetting involves making conscious decisions to change for the better. It means becoming proactive towards your future and taking the necessary steps to ensure your success. What you must come to understand at some point is that your refusal to let go of past disasters, making the same mistakes over and over, and failure to accept the responsibility for your life becomes your very own … tombstone. (Sorry, but someone’s got to tell you.) Aside from prayer, reading, studying and applying the Word of God is the single most influential way towards becoming a person after “God’s own heart.”
The Bible and You
Except for the dates, the Bible is chock full of the most private personal details of people who were just like us except for the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing. They’ve gone through it all and left behind a rather amazing account of how often and how gloriously they blew it. And, every now and then, how they got it right. All of their most private and personal mistakes, failures, sorrows, and bad deeds are spelled out for us in glorious black and white text to read, chuckle over, pompously shake our heads in disbelief, and … hopefully … learn from. Rick Warren said, “While it is wise to learn from experience, it is even wiser to learn from the experience of others.” Here’s a question for you: “How wise are you?”
Reading the Bible is like looking into our sister’s journal. It gives the opportunity to live vicariously through another person’s life that is perhaps more exciting or appealing than our own. It allows us to see, up close and personal, what secrets some people have deep inside that they would never ever share with anyone. It permits us to see just how bad and just how good things can really be. It teaches us what should be important in our God-given life and what should be ignored.
For you see, the men and women of the Bible experienced the same things we do today: stupidity, lust, jealousy, hatred, fear, loneliness, worthlessness, sorrow and true love. They also battled with the same internal and external pressures that we struggle with: money troubles, poor self-confidence, illness, doubt, bad people who wanted to do mean things to them … There is not one situation that we face today that someone hasn’t had to deal with already in the biblical journal account. Why not take the opportunity and learn from someone else’s mistakes as well as successes?
Which brings us full circle. All your relationships – good or bad – are a direct window into you and your heart. What do you think about that comment?
The collection of people that surround you shout loudly and clearly the condition of your heart. People are often quick to give excuses as to why that statement isn’t accurate. But let’s face it: the people that you are attracted to (romantically and just as friends) are specifically linked to your own individual make-up. Some people appeal, some do not, and what you are internally is the deciding factor.
How about this quote from the website Despair.com: “The only consistent feature of all your dissatisfying relationships is you.” How terrifying is that quote? The first time I read it, it struck me as quite funny. But then, after its brutal frankness began to sink in, I took a big gulp and rather hesitantly began to reflect back on my rather dismal personal track record of relationships over the years.
What do people see when they look into your personality window? What do you say to others about yourself in the way you live your life? These are hard questions, whether you choose to face them or not, that in the end will be the reality of what people think of you. You can ignore these questions, but the impact of the answers will not go away.
The purpose of this book is to give you the opportunity to peek into some very personal diary entries and read about all the disasters that would never have been spoken about, and maybe learn something in the process. Give your heart a thorough examination and …
- Apply some of the lessons.
- Do a little thoughtful introspection.
- Examine the quality of your heart.
- Realign your priorities.
- Fix what’s broken.
- Strengthen what’s weak.
- Find what’s lost.
- Make God smile a bit.
For all of you out there …
Each chapter of this book is going to take one biblical woman and study her heart and her resulting relationships. In addition to giving you information to help you understand the culture of the times and appreciate the story, I’ll encourage you to look up some pertinent scripture about the chapter’s topic and, hopefully, make you think long and hard about the person that you are versus the person you’d like to be. Maybe you will see flashes of yourself at times? Perhaps the Lord will speak to your heart as you do this study? I even give a bit of homework. The purpose of the homework is to encourage you to really pinpoint specific areas of your life that are good, bad, and perhaps ugly so you can know where you need to focus your growth and improvement.
Let’s start with some questions I don’t ask you to write down the answers, but I would hope you could easily respond to them. And perhaps, if you can’t answer these questions easily now, by the end of this study you will be able to.
- Can you pinpoint a moment in your life, upon making a decision to commit to Christ, that you felt new?
- Who is the ultimate authority in your life? Stripped down to the bare bones, whom would you risk your life with and for?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your interests, God-given talents and abilities?
- What is more important to you: God’s will or your will?
- Are good things really worth the wait?
- Are many of the difficulties in your life end results of choices you wish you hadn’t made in the first place?
Homework … How’s your heart doing?
The life that you lead is unique to you and only you. It is as good and as bad as you choose to let it be.
It begins with your heart and is directed by your strengths and your weaknesses, which are both God-given. You must acknowledge them and believe that they are what make you uniquely special to God.
Depending on the strength of your heart, life stresses can give you opportunities for success or failure. Are you constantly dragged down? Do you find yourself repeatedly in situations that are disastrous?
Depending on the strength of your heart and how you utilize your strengths and your weaknesses, you either have great joys or great sorrows. Can you delight in the wonder of your individuality? Have you made the most of who you are and embraced the things you can do and released the things you can’t? Have your weaknesses become your greatest strengths?
COMING UP: BIBLICAL WOMAN PART TWO: EVE AND THE ONLY GUY ON THE PLANET