There is a gospel hymn that says, “Like the woman at the well I was seeking for things that could not satisfy…”
Have you ever had an inward emptiness? I have. My life was filled with activity and busyness. Most all of it good, but I was not satisfied. Like empty calories that filled my stomach but failed to nourish my body, my heart, mind, and spirit were not being nourished by the good activity of my life.
It seems to me that, in our culture, there is no shortage of things, many of them good things, clamoring to take up residence in our hearts. If we open our hearts to them, we will be pushed and pulled by forces that quickly take control.
To live as children of God, and most specifically as Christ followers, our hearts need to be nourished with the presence of God. Against the attractions and anxieties that swirl about us, Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God (Matthew 6:33). This means to allow God to inform our lives through the witness of the scriptures, through Jesus Christ, and the witness of the saints through the ages. In this way, God becomes the center of everything.
James W. Skillen writes, “The wisdom of Ecclesiastes teaches us that making ourselves the fixed point from which to view reality is a recipe for despair.”¹
His words challenge us in the midst of a culture that is convinced that each individual is the source of what is right, wrong, and true. The result is often a do-it-yourself spirituality that tends to focus on personal fulfillment. How different from Jesus. Jesus assumes that the fixed point is God, who reveals wisdom to those who are as receptive as children rather than to those regarded as wise and learned (Matthew 11:25).
Our hearts will be filled with someone or something. That is why Jesus asks us to hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. Doing so does not come naturally to us. In fact, it is natural for us to follow our own desires. So we begin always by inviting God to enter a heart that is instinctively unreceptive.
“It should not surprise us,” writes Arthur Simon, “that prayer and time alone with God seem strange and out of place in a life that is occupied with many interests and responsibilities that make little allowance for anything so impractical. However, if the heart is to be properly filled, it must be emptied of things that leave no space for God, and give God access. Doing so means setting aside time for prayer and reflection. An empty prayer life reflects an emptiness in life, which is to say a cluttered and distracted heart.”²
I hope you are allowing God access to your heart. It is my hope that you and I become so connected to God and to God’s desire for us, that all the people around us become the focus of our care and hospitality. Those people may be our family, friends, neighbors or people experiencing grief or pain. It is my hope that those known or unknown to us, who may be hungry, homeless, imprisoned, victims of violence will be held close to God as we offer ourselves in risk-taking mission and service.
“If we genuinely love people,” writes Richard Foster, “we desire for them far more than it is within our power to give, and that will cause us to pray.”³
When our prayers are in order, everything else follows. When we pray, God helps us put our hearts and minds on things that matter. The action follows. Our hearts will be filled. I want my heart a to be filled with a deep and abiding love for God and for you.
I pray that your heart will be filled with God’s love as well.
How do you keep the main thing the main thing in your life?
¹James W. Skillen, A Covenant to Keep: Meditations on the Biblical Theme of Justice
²Authur Simon, How Much is Enough?
³Richard Foster, Celebrations of Discipline.