I like the symbol of the heart, as a symbol of love and romantic things. Back on April 1, I talked about the ancient Egyptian ceremony of weighing the heart after death. The symbol of the heart, as we know it, goes back to Roman times (although some experts who have written books on the heart say it only goes back to Medieval times). There were ancient Cyrene coins with a representation of a seed pod of the silphium plant. That plant became extinct in ancient times because it was too popular, and used as a contraceptive among other things. Below are photos of one of these coins, and of a bronze Roman heart about 2000 years old. While I am talking of ancient Romans, allow me to share a quote of Julius Caesar: “In most cases men willingly believe what they wish.” I think we would agree with Caesar that people gladly, eagerly believe what they wish to be true, even if it isn’t. And while this statement of Caesar’s is worth reflection based solely on the quote, it is even more interesting to know the context of the statement. The quote comes from a book he wrote on the Roman Republic wars with, and conquest of, Gaul in the first century BC. Caesar is talking of cowardice, and the recruitment of a Gallic double agent to go back as a returned deserter, with false tales of the difficulties of Caesar and his delayed reinforcements.
Last November, when I began this blog, I shared my appreciation of the Book of Good Love from 1330 in Spain, and my favorite story – the sign language debate between the Greek and the Roman. I said that the illustration I get from the story is that people tend to find and see what they expect. But Caesar said it better, because people eagerly believe what they wish to be true, even if it isn’t.
Well, this observation is directly related to Good Love, as in the Book of Good Love, but how is it related to Better Love and, more importantly, Best Love? The answer is found in God’s Word: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9). The word used in Spanish in this verse, for “deceitful” is “engañoso.” Engañar does mean to deceive, also to trick, to fool. And it is the verb used to describe what one spouse does to the other when they are unfaithful.
I know we talk of people seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, that their perceptions are flavored by their personal desires and beliefs. Sometimes we even say that a person has blinders on – that their peripheral vision is obstructed, they are focused only on what’s directly in front of them, like a horse with blinders. But I would go further and say that our problem is that we are blindfolded, because our hearts are deceitful. This applies to feelings, feelings of the heart, like love. But it also applies to every other area of our lives.
We want to be happy and happy now, not later. Our focus is on ourselves, not others, even when we tell ourselves we put another first. We focus on what we want, not what we need. Allow me to share some more insights from an excellent book by Andy Stanley that I am reading. The fact that our heart is deceitful leads us to pick wrong paths and end up at undesired destinations. We are blind to where we are, where we are starting from. And we neglect to focus on the fact that the path we pick, the path we choose, leads to a final destination. The path we decide to take determines where we end up, not our good intentions, our hopes, our dreams, our prayers, our beliefs, our intellect, our education.
But God, with His Best Love, provides a solution: And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32). If we know that our heart cannot be trusted, that it is deceitful, we can use care in choosing the paths we take, rather than simply letting our (deceitful) heart be our guide. This is the answer, not looking for solutions to problems after the fact, when we have arrived at an undesired destination.
Andy observes that knowledge is not the answer. He has talked to many people with problems, that are at that undesired destination, who sat in the pews on Sunday and nodded their heads to truth, who took notes of the truth they heard, who went to a financial seminar and brought home a notebook with plans and guidance. But they did not apply the truth when they CHOSE a PATH to take. Instead, they focused on looking for happiness now, a path that looked good now. But the tomorrow they ignored back then is the “today” when they find themselves sitting in the pastor’s office, asking for a (quick) solution.
I ask myself what I will do with the truth Andy has shared, the truth in God’s Word. I like hearts and their symbolism. I like the fact that the ancients viewed the heart as the source of one’s personality, their intellect, memory, wisdom, and identity, as the center of the mind and thought. But will I use more care in CHOOSING my paths? Will you?