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Chapter 3: The Heart of All Things

“The heart is central.  That we would even need to be reminded of this only shows how far we have fallen from the life we were meant to live – or how powerful the spell has been.  The subject of the heart is addressed in the Bible more than any other topic – more than works or service, more than belief or obedience, more than money, and even more than worship.”  - Chapter 3, Waking the Dead

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 I have a confession to make and it probably won’t make much logical sense.  Here goes:  I don’t want to win the lottery.  I know that if I tell most people that (and I have) they will either laugh or look very confused.  So I’ve learned to stop saying it.  But while I did, I was always asked, “Well, WHY NOT??”  And I usually responded that I believed in the lottery curse, and would send them to google that if they hadn’t heard of it.  Superstition actually seemed more rational than the truth. 

But the truth of it is, I worry that an influx of income on that scale would crowd out the natural order and authenticity of my world.  Sure, there are the practical issues of how you will spend your time if you’re not working.  And yes, I could fill the time, but what would that teach my children about the value of education and hard work?  We tend to only truly enjoy what we’ve rightfully earned. 

It would definitely increase the speed on my pace of life, which already feels maxed out.  The busyness would increase, the decision-making, the second-guessing…

What would happen to my friendships?  If people asked for financial help, I would want to help them….but I would always wonder if they were really my friend to begin with.  Would I be reduced to a mere dollar sign; a strategic alignment? 

What I fear most is that this fortune would require a trade:  money instead of heart.  It is easy, in our modern age, to monetize and mass-produce anything we want.  We can even get it delivered to our house, often with free shipping!  We can start watching any movie we want with only a few clicks.  But are any of your favorite memories about your fastest download speed?  The greatest deal you ever got?  Of course not!  They are all about the people and the activities that you love.  This chapter focuses on the centrality of the heart, and challenges the reader to actually stop reading and make a list of everything you love (without priority, second-guessing or editing).  I encourage you to actually do this.  If nothing else, you can’t help but smile. 

But more importantly, it focuses your attention on what matters most to you, and in that list, you’ll see parts of God’s purpose for your life.  If we are to “love God and love others,” then loving those people on your list is part of your purpose.  If you wrote how much you love to care for children, or play music or help people with their problems – there is your ministry.  And the amazing thing about working from your heart is that no one has to follow up with you and remind you to do it.  When it is a labor of love, you just do it, from the pure joy you get from being fully alive in that moment.  

- Bekah Arias

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Chapter 2: The Eyes of the Heart

“The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.” – John Eldredge

A colleague of mine has an annual fight with her husband.  Same time every year.  It’s not scheduled of course, but it always seems to happen. Her husband goes on their church retreat, hears Scripture all weekend, bonds with his friends, and feels spiritually renewed.  And then something goes wrong, and the argument starts.  She is fighting her beloved, at the conclusion of this spiritual retreat. Every. Single. Year. After knowing her for a few years, and listening sympathetically each time, I started to notice the pattern and asked, “Did you ever wonder if there’s something deeper going on?” 

For a lot of us, it’s hard to really see our own story.  Our perspective gets clouded by the drudgery of each day.  When we are under attack, we get battle fatigue and we look around for someone to blame, but we don’t see any options.  Blaming some mystical spiritual presence seems laughable.  Sounds like #fakenews.  It’s not something we see other people taking seriously, so we don’t take it seriously ourselves.  So we keep fighting, essentially blind-folded, not knowing where our enemy will strike next. 

The part of this chapter I found most heartening (and simultaneously disheartening) was the reminder of the story of Daniel, when he prays for an answer and God sends an angel right away….and it takes 3 weeks of entanglement in spiritual warfare to get to him.  Doesn’t that sound so familiar?  You pray for an answer – for something good, something you know God would want to bless you with – and you’re met with massive delay that rivals the DMV. 

So you’re sitting there, waiting for your number to be called, wondering if God’s forgotten.  If He’s not in the mood and you should just come back and try another day.  I know people in our church who’ve waited a lot longer than 3 weeks for an answer.  I know people who’ve waited a year, 5 years, 10 years.  I know people who are still waiting.  There is more going on here.  More than we can see.  But not more than we can spiritually sense, if we can be awakened to it. 

I don’t know about you, but when I first watched the Matrix, I thought.  “I would have taken the blue pill….”  It seemed like a pathetic thing to think as I was watching, until I heard one of the characters in the movie, bemoan this same sentiment aloud. “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”  Because there was no turning back. 

It can be frightening, overwhelming, even panic-inducing.  If this is where you are, I truly, truly understand.  Maybe the first step is asking God for the courage to really step into your own story.  There is a role to play that is yours alone. 

- Bekah Arias


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Chapter 1: Arm Yourselves

“I daresay we’ve heard a bit about original sin, but not nearly enough about original glory, which comes before sin and is deeper to our nature.  We were crowned with glory and honor.  Why does a woman long to be beautiful?  Why does a man hope to be found brave?  Because we remember, if only faintly, that we were once more than we are now.  The reason you doubt there could be a glory to your life is because that glory has been the object of a long and brutal war.” John Eldridge, Waking the Dead, Chapter 1, Arm Yourselves

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  The Usual Suspects 

I had a friend recently confide in me that her life is no longer making sense.  Up until now, her education had led to a stable career path with plenty of room for growth.  Her company was in good financial standing; all was well.  She put in the hard work, and productive results followed.  But then, the financial foundation began to crumble.  Blame started, leadership became corrupt and layoffs were happening all around.  There was no longer a path toward promotion, rather, you were lucky to just be on the road at all.  The hard work stayed the same, even increased.  But the results no longer followed. 

As I listened, I knew the feeling all too well.  The sense that your life’s work needs to take a new direction, but there are none available.  And for those that were less lucky, the full on disorientation that job loss has on your identity. 

Usually I’ve categorized these experiences as a realization that we are not in control.  They tend to hit whenever the familiar formula stops working.  “I am the best qualified – why didn’t I get the job?”  “I am in perfect health – why this diagnosis?”  “I’m doing everything right – why can’t I meet someone?” “I’m still praying, but nothing’s changing.”  The problem is that once we reach this conclusion – this cynical loss of control, and the only guarantee in life being that there are no guarantees – there is nowhere to go from there.  Just a massive metaphorical throwing your hands up in the air.  Yup, that’s life – nothing we can do about it. 

So we continue to walk through life, but with our guard up, or we work twice as hard.  Or we find a new hobby to throw ourselves into.  Sometimes, we are blessed with answers to prayer, even miracles.  But sometimes, life’s just rough.   So we lose hope.  And life feels blurry and unpredictable.  Our days are clouded with anxiety, loneliness, unspeakable joy, addictions, unexpected blessings, depression, distractions, self-centered living.  But it’s just a big, gray mess and you never know what each day will hold. 

What John Eldridge offers in this first chapter is a wake up call to recognize the war that is going on around us.  To no longer see it just as a gray blur, but as two opposing forces, warring for your soul.  And not your eternal soul, no, that is secure.  The war is for our time and attention in this life.  For our opportunity to be fully alive right now.  It is so easy to dismiss that there are two active forces that oppose each other.  We know and love God.  But we would rather forget about the other side.  It reminds me of the brilliant quote from the Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”  Odd as it sounds, it's rooted in truth. Being unaware of the opposition means not actively fighting it.  It displaces the blame onto God, ourselves or other people.  And it keeps us busy fixing, or fighting, but not really living.  

Another area where we can get tripped up is forgetting our value.  We may hear that God loves us all the time.  But if we are constantly having to reconcile that against the tragedies that happen to us, some part of us starts to discredit that love.  We start to think, Well, God gives me some blessings, so He loves me only this much...  But when you see yourself as standing in the middle of a great battlefield, with a war going on for your heart and your freedom, the situation changes.  We feel we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  And what do we go to war over?  Trivial matters?  No.  We only go to war for the people that we love and can't live without, for freedom, for something of immeasurable inherent value.  We are that treasure.    

And for us to wake up, and start really living, is not only an act of bravery, but of downright rebellion against the comfortable distracted living the enemy would prefer we continue.  What happens each time we see ourselves in a mirror?  We are probably thinking it's time to schedule a hair color appointment.  We don't really see ourselves.  Both sides of this war see us as we truly are: Image bearers of God.  And we have to know that - really know who we are in the deepest sense - to be both a brave warrior and a rebel, and to join in the fight.   

- Bekah Arias

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