As church planters and church leaders, as we’re busy carrying the weight of leadership in these times, trying to bring clarity in the midst of confusion while being confused ourselves, trying to help those who have suffered great loss even while we are facing our own personal loss, and navigating wisdom for our communities when righteousness seems so polarized. It is evident that how we respond as leaders to these unprecedented times matters.
But, this isn’t a prescription for how exactly to participate in the great sociocultural and socioeconomic divide much of the world is experiencing through the global pandemic and the outcries for social justice — no, this is an invitation to examine our hearts. Our hearts and the hearts of those we both lead and love will ultimately dictate our participation in the world around us — will we engage in these tumultuous times in the way of Jesus because we have His very heart inside of us? How do we examine our hearts when we’re so busy carrying a burden that seems beyond us today?Our hearts and the hearts of those we both lead and love will ultimately dictate our participation in the world around us — will we engage in these tumultuous times in the way of Jesus because we have His very heart inside of us? ~ Eun Strawser Click To Tweet
Heart to Heart
A starting point that we tried out in our missional community was to identify where our hearts are currently at. How is our heart responding currently to these times? In Mark 12, one of the teachers of the law asked Jesus what is the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
To Jesus, who we orient our heart and worship around matters. To Jesus, who we love matters because it spills over into and reorients how we love, care about, and value, everything and everyone else. The heart matters because the heart determines our responses. If we’re honest with ourselves, it’s important to be able to examine where our hearts are at now in order to pray and lean into being transformed more to the heart of Christ.
Here are five starting points that your heart and the heart of those in your community may be experiencing today: Anger, Avoidance, Abdication, Absentminded, and/or Anxiety.
David Powlison writes in Good and Angry, “At its core, anger is very simple. It expresses ‘I’m against that.’ It is an active stance you take to oppose something that you assess as both important and wrong … [Anger is] active displeasure toward something that’s important enough to care about.”
What do you think you’re “against”?
What do you think is something that is important to you but has gone wrong?
Anger may be fueled by great loss or failure, whether it’s in identity, ideologies or institutions, polarized values, and/or wrong behavior and responses. Is your heart experiencing Anger today?
Brene Brown states, “We emotionally ‘armor up’ each morning when we face the day to avoid feeling shame, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. The particular armor changes from person to person, but it usually revolves around one of three methods: striving for perfection, numbing out, or [addictive behavior].”
Is there underlying shame, anxiety, uncertainty, or fear you’re “armoring up” against?
How is your “armor” showing up?
Avoidance can be expressed as repression (burying our emotions, concerns, fears, and/or vulnerabilities), numbness (detaching which blocks confronting, processing and/or problem-solving), or addiction (distracting ourselves through binge-eating/watching/doing/drinking). Is your heart experiencing Avoidance today?
“It seems to me that a large percentage of supposed Christians have chosen abdication as their strategy for surviving the spiritually toxic environment of this world. They throw in the towel of concern, compassion and subversion. Since it’s just easier to not care, they surrender” (B. Wiget).
Do you feel like you just want to “throw in the towel”?
Does it feel easier to “not care”?
Abdication can look like compliant in-action, giving up responsibility, concern and/or engagement, or waiting for normal to return. Is your heart experiencing Abdication today?
Tim Keller says of faith that it “is not the absence of thinking, but it is thinking and acting on the basis of the word and promise of God.”
Are you present with the people and circumstances around you?
Are you aware of God’s active presence in the people and circumstances around you?
Absent-mindedness can present itself as denial of current circumstances, being unaware of implications on ourselves or others, and having an inattentive and oblivious disposition. Is your heart experiencing Absent-mindedness today?
“Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” (C. Ten Boom).
Do your worries empty you of your strength today?
Does your loss of yesterday and uncertainty of tomorrow stop you from engaging in today?
Anxiety shows up in overwhelming paralysis, an inability to shift well to situations and others, mourning over what could have or should have been, unresolved broken expectations, and over-compensating behavior. Is your heart experiencing Anxiety today?
Go through these starting questions for yourself. Go through these questions with those you love and lead. Wherever your heart is today in response to these times, the hope of Christ is that He tends to your heart and He means to transform it to become more like His own. He tends to the heart of your community and means to transform them to become more like Himself. Identifying our starting point is just that – a great start.
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