At thirteen years old, I remember sitting in my first youth group session. Our youth leader drilled into us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) I said, “okay,” and successfully for the last ten years I’ve steered clear of the Target t-shirt aisle blaring declarations of, “follow your heart.” I never once bought a journal or wall decor with anything that read such condemning words. I would never say them verbatim to a friend. No matter the circumstance, I’ve always known better than to promote following the thing that was so deceitfully wicked.
But for the first time in those ten years I’m realizing that despite my bold protest, I’m not sure I wholly knew what that sentiment meant. I mean, maybe in the big ways I did; I certainly never pursued my childhood dream of becoming a rockstar (although as a teacher, I still think I fit the rockstar description), but in the small day-to-days, I have found myself making decisions based off of how I felt. With every decision comes a consequence, and it took a few hurtful consequences for me to realize that emotionally charged direction is exactly the same thing as following one’s heart.
So, in our perseverance to become women of God, let’s take a moment to understand what following your heart truly means:
First, the sentiment: follow your heart. This idea means that your own internal sense of ”knowing” is something worth following. Your own experience can guide you to the brightest of futures and that as long as you have the courage to pursue it, true happiness will follow! Very Disney-esque, amiright? While this notion is somewhat empowering, it’s fallacy is in the idea that we — our human nature — could create the best life for ourselves! This is Biblically wrong because we know that only God is omniscient and has a perfect will for our lives; I could never make a more perfect plan for my life than Him! And frankly, it takes a large portion of pride to believe that I could. Following your heart denies logic and faith in God, but instead grants approval and direction to that which, the Bible says, “proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Mt. 15:19) — that is a lot of mess for one heart! And, even if theft and blasphemy and the other such doesn’t seem to be a regular battle for you, honestly, how could this very same heart that ominously whispers “eat Taco Bell,” at 11:00pm make consciously good decisions for my life! I know very well I should not eat Taco Bell that late. I’ve seen others do it and regret it; I’ve done it and regretted it — but that doesn’t stop the neon sign and cheesy quesadillas from beckoning me! Nevertheless, because experience, logic, and testimony reminds me, I am able to keep driving and say: “No. That’s not a good choice for you. Sure, it’s nice now, but later, it won’t be.”
Now, if only we applied this same cautionary dialogue to so many of our other decisions: “Sure, he’s nice and cute, but maybe I should moderate how much of my heart I invest…” Or, “Yes, what she did was wrong, but that text message is a feeble line of defense that will only leave you both hurt…” Too often, our day-to-days include little decisions that snowball and can eventually leave us wounded! This is why Proverbs tells us to “keep thy heart with ALL diligence; for out out of it are the issues of life” (Pro. 4:23). The Bible is commanding us to guard our hearts! That means keeping our walls up in the small ways and being intentional with our emotions. By the Holy Ghost, you do have the power to gauge your reactions. And for the days where emotions win out (because we’ve all been there), know to learn from your mistakes. You will feel anger, love, sadness, joy, happiness and so much more, (And, when you direct those emotions they can be used for good! Passion about the right things is a good thing!) but, you can pray that the Lord gives you discernment to know when you’re being heart-lead and the power to be able to stop and approach with caution and care.
The dramatic is so appealing in Hollywood films; it’s romantic, it’s passionate, it’s heartbreaking, it’s the spice of the movie! But remember, our lives are not movies; but rather, they are so much better. After the screen fades to black, we have lives to live and God-given futures to fulfill and furthermore — lives to change. How can we change lives if we’re so caught up in the inward-thinking of our own?! God has amazing things in store for you! There are great things he wants to do in you and through you! So let’s start by leading our hearts instead of following them.
Alexys Rea Griffin is a 22-year-old coffee connoisseur, bibliophile, Disney aficionado, and fresh-flower-lover. Seeking her English Literature degree from Florida State University, Alexys devotes her time to the Campus Apostolic Ministry at FSU as well as Kids Ministry at her local church. Do you do Instagram? ‘Cause so does she: @alexysasalways