Many years ago, I was working for my father-in-law’s business and the snack area was filled with many healthy things like Twinkies, packaged cinnamon rolls and, of course, coffee. One day, as I was working at a desk, I was interrupted by the sound of gagging and groans. Running into the room I saw one of the employees looking dazed with a half eaten Twinkie hanging from his fingers. Looking closer, I noticed that the Twinkie looked a little strange. Instead of the familiar white middle, the Twinkie was filled with mold. The poor guy had eaten a moldy Twinkie and was so traumatized that every time someone mentioned it for a few hours after, it would send him to the bathroom gagging. As you can imagine, that made for a very entertaining day. I didn’t even know that Twinkies could mold and up until that point, I was pretty sure they could last for years and never change. Maybe his Twinkie was twenty five years old. Who knows?
The thing about the Twinkie was that the package looked completely normal. There were no rips that anyone could see. The outside gave no indication whatsoever about what was really on the inside. It looked just like every other Twinkie we had ever seen. And so it is with us….
We can look whole, put together and altogether okay. The inner cracks, those broken and sinful places, are successfully masked by an outward exterior of having it all together….until they’re not. Cracks will erode us inwardly and our exterior will hold together..until it doesn’t. For the most part, I don’t believe that most of us walk around trying to be fake. In fact, a lot of us freely share difficulties we have somewhat as a badge of honor that proves that we are real, but what if God wants to actually change that place in us? What if those places that we have come to accept about ourselves because we have lived with them so long as well as those places we try to stuff down, we allowed God to deal with? I think the real problem is that most of us don’t even know ourselves what is going on inside of us. We would rather keep going than deal with things. We would rather excuse those things as normal than deal with them. We’re too busy, too hurried, too unsettled and too out of touch to know what is really going on inside of us. When ugly comes out during stressful times, or hormonal times and tired times, the floodgates open and that’s when we see what is really inside. We aren’t so successful at keeping our heart hidden during those times.
No one starts out with the intention of committing adultery, leaving their spouse, yelling at their children, being bitter toward others, holding everyone at arms length, lying or any of those things. It all begins with a heart that is left untended. You don’t have to look very far to find a story of one who is not what they seemed. The only way to live with integrity is to take care of our heart. One definition of integrity is ‘being whole and undivided.’ If we have true integrity, we will be the same all the way through. The inward part that only God sees will match the outward that others see. We can’t be this without God because only He can make us whole and as He transforms us we become more whole and holy.
If there is anger, it will probably not be enough to just repent. As people who have struggled with anger know, repenting is a necessary part of dealing with the anger, but it doesn’t take care of the root problem. There is a source there that is feeding the anger. It could be hurt, unforgiveness, fear or any number of things. Thankfully our God knows the root of all things in our lives, but we have to be willing to go there and not just immerse ourselves in life so much that we do not take the time it requires to go to Him and allow Him to heal and change those places in our lives. We don’t need to be more patient, we need to be transformed into patient people. This comes through repenting and a healed heart.
If there is lust or pornography, repenting of that is necessary and good, but it will not take care of the deeper problem that is driving the behavior. There must be time spent with God where He is allowed to go and make that broken appetite whole and pure as He intended. Only then will there be freedom. We don’t need to be more pure, we need to be transformed into pure people. The broken place that is driving that wrong appetite needs God’s healing.
If there is gossip, repenting is important, but there is an insecurity or something else that He needs to touch as only He can. There is something driving the desire to harm others. There is also a lack of love and no amount of trying will cause love to happen. He needs to go to that place and instead of making us love more, He needs to make us loving. When we have been overcome by His love, we can’t help but be loving. He may need to show us His heart for us because when that happens we can’t help but love those around us.
This is true for every single thing we struggle with. These things that we struggle with are an enemy to us. They cannot be ignored or excused without affecting our lives negatively.
Trying to be more patient, more pure, more loving, or more (fill in the blank)… is kind of like trying to make sure the outside of the Twinkie conforms to standard, but ignoring the center. The green center chokes people, Friends. People leave the church over it. People walk away from God because of it. Marriages break up, families break apart and a whole lot of sad and unnecessary things happen because we don’t take the time to take care of what is going on in the truest part of us.
We need to go deeper and allow God to really deal with those places in us. We need to go beyond the repentant prayer and ask God why we struggle with what we do. There is a reason and He knows exactly what to do about it. I must admit that it is not the most fun thing in the world to allow Him to go deep, but the end result is so much freedom. That is the continual process of transformation. It can be so hard to slow down and sit for a while so that God can deal with us where He needs to. I believe that busyness and hurry is the biggest enemy of a whole heart. Operating with half a heart will leave us empty and looking for something to make us whole. Let’s let God go deep and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves – transform us into His image and make us truly whole and free.
Friends, it is so important to take care of our heart. We must not ignore it!
Psalm 23:3 (NLT) He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Psalm 86:11 (NLT) Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Psalm 51:6 (NAS) Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Psalm 51:10 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Two books that have helped me so much in this journey are Soul Keeping by John Ortberg and Free to Live by John Eldredge.