The great Oswald Chambers said, “The heart is the center: The center of your life, the center of God’s working, the center of everything." Of course, he was not speaking of the physical, four-chambered organ inside your chest. He was describing your core, your essential being. This is what is called “lev” or “levav" in Hebrew. A complex concept, “lev” is used widely in the Jewish Scriptures to describe a person’s feelings; his or her will, thoughts, and intellect.
It is the emotional, moral, and spiritual crux of an individual. “Lev” also means “to and fro,” like the beating of the physical heart for sure, but think about your heart as an engine, pistons firing within you. Thus, your heart can be described as a motor — and not just when you are running a 5K or attacking the stair-climber during your morning workout. It is what drives you, motivates and pushes you.
The heart is the power plant that energizes you to do the things you do. This is why the Scriptures say things like, “As a person thinks in his heart, so is that person,” and “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and “Everything you do originates in your heart.” And it is also why hearts come in so many varieties.
There are hearts of darkness. Tell-tale hearts. Hearts of gold. Achey, break-y hearts. There are cheating hearts, broken hearts, hearts that go on, hearts left in San Francisco, hearts that are wild, brave, crazy, and blessed. You can be young at heart, know something by heart, be faint-hearted, or have a heart of stone.
You can have a warm heart — especially if your hands are cold. Your heart can skip a beat; it can fail; it can be located in your throat or worn on your sleeve. It can be heavy, cold, bleeding, or you can put it into your work, either the whole way or only half-heartedly. We all have different motors — we are all driven by different things.
So, what drives you? What is it that dictates your emotional reactions, your thinking, your planning, and your actions? Do you even know? Jesus once said, “Come to me and learn about me.” And then he describes his internal motor: “For my heart is humble and gentle.” If you borrowed that phrase for yourself — “Come and learn about me” — and gave the invitation for others to know the real you, how would you describe your own heart?
There are a gazillion books you can read, seminars you can attend, and self-help gurus you can pay who will show you how to change your externals. But none of these will work without giving attention to a little Platonic wisdom: “Know Thyself.” Know what moves you. Otherwise, behavior modification is treatment for our symptoms alone, and doesn’t address the source of our disease. We cannot understand - and we will not change - until we get to the heart of the matter.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.org.