Man Looks at Appearances, but God Looks at the Heart

In my walk with the Lord, one of the mindsets I have had to overcome has been the mindset I developed from test taking in my years of schooling. How does this all connect? Keep reading ...

(The following is not meant to bring offense is meant towards my teacher friends or my past teachers. It's a complex conversation and not the point of this post.)

In school, I learned to memorize answers in order to pass tests. I was rarely interested in learning the material, only knowing what was necessary to continue to progress in my grade and keep teachers and parents off my back. My mind adapted to hunt and find the right answers, not for the sake of learning or personal growth but for presentation. I exchanged the journey of real learning for the presentation of success. 

How has this translated to my faith? As I've grown older, the beauty of appearances has worn off and I've become more aware where I have lacked substance. In my rush to be the first to finish, or the best score, I created a mentality that values right answers  over real. While this method is a great strategy to get through schooling, it's a shallow strategy for life and faith. 

I have had to time and time again choose humility and truthfulness from the inner parts over the ability to be right on a surface level. I have had to consciously override my ability to give the right answer without having the right understanding. I've had to resist manipulating people or circumstances because I would know the right words to say, but be violating the greatest commandments to love God and my neighbor. In prayer this has looked like me having the ability to say the right words, but they not really be from my heart. They would be hollow, for they would only have substance if they were sourced from my heart. I could give up the right words without giving my heart. As a writer, it's looked like evaluating my most eloquent of writings to see if there's hypocrisy. As an ordained leader in the body of Christ, it's looked like a greater level of personal integrity to learn to apply the best of writings to my own heart first before sharing with others. 

Lately I've found myself struggling with the right words to say in prayer and praise. I've looked for a song, and I couldn't find one. I've looked for the right scripture to speak before the Lord and in my searching, the delay to find the appropriate outlet of words created an even weightier heart. 

The other day, my heart finally found relief, when I remembered all over again, that the Lord is not looking for the right answers but He is looking for the real me. When I wanted to tell Him all the right words, He wanted me to tell Him all the real thoughts. The ones less than perfect, the ones still tainted by flesh, the ones that accurately reflect where I am and not just me speaking positively to where I want to be. 

For an overcoming perfectionist, this admission can feel risky. Yet I have found this is where God likes to dwell. Risk requires trust. He's ever aware of all that is within our hearts. This means He's also aware when we are not taking accountabity for what's within us. 

It feels risky because I have to admit my flaws to the flawless God. I have to admit I know the right answer of what He desires in me, but my love for Him and others is a little off. He knows it, but He wants to know if I know it. It is by our confession that the things hidden in darkness come to the Light. It is in the Light that they can be dealt with, pruned away, or surgically removed. 

I have learned that in communion with God, only a portion of it is about expressing my heart. It also involves Him expressing His truth (which we sometimes have to search to discover) and then taking that and applying it. Scripture spoken *over* a rotten heart just creates a putrid smell. Scripture spoken *to* a rotten heart has the ability to create a pleasing aroma. 

While man can be fooled by appearances, God is not. Mature faith is not just knowing the scriptures and perfecting appearances, but cultivating an internal atmosphere where the Word of God produces fruit from the inside out. 

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