“Behold my heart, God! Behold my heart… It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to be lost, I loved my rebellion — not that to which I was rebelling, but my rebellion itself did I love. My shameful soul was jumping from your (sky) into destruction, not seeking anything with disgrace but disgrace itself.”
St. Augustine of Hippo (Confessions )
It is early. Snow is falling outside as I write today. The children are all still in bed. It is dark outside and all the lights are out except my computer screen this morning.
I like the quiet.
For a few brief moments in the day, I have this time to sit, to think, to meditate, to pray, and to write.
And for a few brief moments I come to this place and open my heart to my Father…and wait for Him to lead.
It’s interesting to me that the subject of leadership comes up in Jesus’ prayer. Jesus knows we are looking for a leader. To the people of his day, the desire for a leader was fiercely strong. The oppression of the Romans had to have been a burden, a stress, a fear, and a frustration to the people of the Book (the Jews).
And as Jesus does, in his mysterious way of teaching, He clarifies a direction that we need to pray for from God. Again, this prayer is not a formula. So don’t go building an entire theology of leadership and life based on this one prayer. Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t ask God to lead us into the homes of the poor, or towards a life of service. He isn’t omitting important places to ask God to lead us.
Do you see what Jesus is doing?
This prayer has been a matter of the heart. Jesus knows that until we learn how to be led by our Father, we will never lead ourselves rightly. And this begins by trusting God in all our decisions, wherever we may go.
He will lead us if we will follow.
The quote above is from St. Augustine of Hippo’s book “Confessions”. In it, Augustine recounts the beginning of his teenage years in a pear orchard next to the vineyards he lived near. It is a brief story about how, as a teenage boy, he went into the orchard with some friends and stole a handful of peaches off the trees there and ran off with them.
Of course, the peaches weren’t good and they ended up throwing them to the pigs. But Augustine discovered something about his heart in remembering that day that deeply disturbed him. He realized that there was no reason for this evil that he had done. He did it simply because he enjoyed it. He just wanted to be bad. He gave in to the temptation to steal for no reason but to steal for the joy of it.
His words haunted me this morning as I read them:
“It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to be lost, I loved my rebellion — not that to which I was rebelling, but my rebellion itself did I love.”
As we look into our hearts and find the rebellion there, we can respond in one of two ways.
- Resistance. The choice to resist the Spirit of God in your heart is a natural temptation for all of us. When we ask God to lead us not into temptation, this goes against our natural inclination to sin. We want what we shouldn’t want and we resist what we should. A decision has to be made. What kind of person am I going to be? What am I going to allow to influence my soul? How am I going to resist temptation when it comes? What am I believing about what I am being tempted to do? Do I think that it will make me happy? Will I ultimately be satisfied by this thing that I am considering? These are questions that most of us never ask ourselves. But the temptation is very real and the end game of our enemy is very clear: destruction.
- Repentance. The choice to repent is the decision to turn away from what appears to be satisfying. It is a 180 degree turn from the path that we are choosing to clear for ourselves, to the path that God has already laid out for us. Some of us follow the way of the world. Others the way of our parents or peers. But God makes it very clear, there is only one way to knowing Him and becoming a part of His Kingdom. That is the way of repentance and faith in Jesus. If we trust God to lead us not into temptation, we must recognize that He will lead us into the way of Jesus.
Thoughts for Reflection
Where is your heart today?
What solace or comfort are you finding in living a life of giving in to the temptations around you? Are you weary? Have you realized how fragile the ground around you is when you live in this way? Do you feel stuck?
Trust God to lead you not into temptation, but into life…into truth…into the way of the Kingdom. Turn away from the lies. Find a friend and tell them your demons. Name them out and ask God to deliver you from them.
What you believe about what is tempting you will determine how far you go down the path of no return. If death overtakes you on that path, then there truly is no return.
But there is hope in learning how to listen and follow the voice of God.
In His light, there is life. Return. Before it’s too late.