My girls have this pillow on their bed that says “Follow Your Heart.”
I stood in the aisle at Ross for twenty minutes looking at it, evaluating it, weighing it, before I tossed it in the cart and paid for it and brought it home, arranging it just so.
Normally, I’d have scoffed at this pillow and left it to languish on the shelf. Because I do not much appreciate sayings on pillows. I think truth is too complicated for fifteen square inches.
But I bought this one. Because I think there’s truth in the words “Follow Your Heart.” Even though six months ago I thought “Follow Your Heart” was the most ridiculous piece of advice anybody could ever give anybody.
I think what a lot people mean when they say “Follow your heart” is “Follow your flesh.” They mean, do what feels good. Do what makes you temporarily happy. And that’s why I’ve always considered it such bad advice. Our emotions/longings can be such terrible guides, leading us into bad relationships, financial stupidity, and binging of all varieties.
I think of the apostle Paul describing the war between flesh and spirit, the way we must take captive our flesh, and I wonder how we got it so wrong, coddling our flesh like a pet bunny (“caged” but companionate) with no idea the damage it could do left unchecked. (Yes, people, bunnies unchecked can reek havoc. Consider Australia’s 1800 kilometer rabbit-proof fence. Google it.)
So if you mean follow your flesh when you say follow your heart—that’s busted and it leads to Bustedness (capital B).
But. The flesh and the heart are not the same. The truth is that the “heart” is what the flesh and spirit are fighting for, the battleground and the prize.
I did a search for “heart” on Biblegateway and was totally surprised by the number of times it appears in the Bible (725). God seems almost preoccupied with the state of the human heart.
Consider just a few of those verses…
"But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deut. 4:29
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” Deut. 6:6
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matt. 5:8
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Eph. 3:16-18
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1
"May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thes. 3:5
I read these passages and I’m reminded that God fights for my heart because the heart is immensely powerful. The heart isn’t some adorable shape little girls doodle on folders. It isn’t a lovey dovey feeling hub. The heart is the human guidance system, a compass we cannot override.
Whether or not we like it—whether or not we even realize it—we will follow our hearts.
Which is why the phrase “Follow your heart” is ridiculous as advice but powerful as truth. For me, it’s a reminder not to “listen” to my heart, as if it required quiet and my full attention to be heard, but rather to cultivate my heart—my bossy, loud, large and in charge heart—which will lead me into either righteousness or Bustedness, depending on its state.
So, write God’s word on your heart. Let God dwell in your heart. Purify your heart. Set your heart on things above. Then, follow it.