Proverbs 4: 23-27Above all else, guard your heart,for everything you do flows from it.Keep your mouth free of perversity;keep corrupt talk far from your lips.Let your eyes look straight ahead;fix your gaze directly before you.Give careful thought to the paths for your feetand be steadfast in all your ways.Do not turn to the right or the left;keep your foot from evil.
Today I was struck by the poetry of this section, the way the different parts of the body are involved in the life of the wise person, and the roles each part has to play.
It starts with the heart, which is to be guarded above all else. The heart, the centre of our being, is where our truest desires come from. There is a place in my heart for the things I truly value, and those things say a lot about who I am. Of course my husband is always there, and my children, but my hopes and dreams for our family aren’t set in concrete. They shift over time. And these hopes set the path of my life – whether I’m conscious of it or not.
But while my heart is where my desires for my family lives, my heart also has a huge section in it labelled in bright bold letters – “ME!”. This is the selfish, childish, part that screams only for my own comfort.
This part is often at war with my desires for my family. Where my hope would be for my children to become well-rounded individuals, my selfish heart screams “just one more episode of Paw Patrol so I can have some peace!”. Where I worry about their attention spans and the development of their brains at this young age, my selfish heart says “just a few more minutes of computer games can’t hurt them!”
Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”. It’s no wonder then that the first steps in true wisdom is to guard it. If left unguarded, that part inside that screams for my desires, my comfort, my ease would always win. And everyone else I love would lose.
But, if the heart is beyond cure as Jeremiah says, then what hope do we have? Paul provides the answer in Philippians 4:6-7 –
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Only God can keep my deceitful heart from going astray. Only a miracle can stop my loud, selfish desires from crowding out the oft-too-quiet voice telling me the good I hope to do. Only Jesus can take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh, eager to live in obedience to him.
Only then will I be able to marshal the other parts of my body in line with the rest of the proverb. Only Jesus can help keep my lips free from unhelpful speech, my eyes fixed firmly on the right goals, and my feet fixed firmly on the right path, not wandering left and right into whatever temptations come my way.
If left alone to guard my heart, I’d have no chance. What great news that I’m not alone in this, that God promises to help me. All I need to do is ask.