Maybe you shouldn't follow your heart

Maybe you shouldn't follow your heart

In The Age of Feelings Are Facts, it's not a surprise that the faulty advice to "follow your heart" is having its moment in the sun. I've been hearing this advice since I was a kid, and I didn't follow it even then...though that was because I didn't know how to. To me, it always felt like this advice skipped a step: it always seemed like the people who gave this advice assumed that one could know what was in their heart in the first place. What we were supposed to do if we didn't have a clue about where to start with this whole following our heart thing?

Over the years, the advice changed costumes. "Follow your passion." "Do what you love and you won't work a day in your life." "Create a lifestyle business." But the message was always the same: follow your heart and you'll get what you want in life. Of course, I never found anyone who could explain to me how the heck we were supposed to know what was in our hearts in the first place. And that resulted in a lot of unfinished projects (and, ahem, masters degrees), a resume full of jobs I've hated, and not a lot to build on as I rapidly approach my 40th birthday. Until I actually started reading the Bible:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can understand it? ~Jeremiah 17:9-10

So I wasn't doing it wrong this whole time? When I couldn't ever come up with an answer for what I really, really wanted, what I'd be doing if money were no object, what I was most passionate about, I wasn't just broken or failing? It's no wonder that this culture, which is built entirely upon whatever the latest version of follow your heart is, is such an unstable mess. But this only solved half my problem. Great that I wasn't stupid or defective for not being able to know my own heart enough to be able to follow it like my society screams is the only way to happiness. But what am I supposed to be guided by instead? And what the heck do I do with all of my heart's desires?

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

It took me years to realize that this was not saying "treat God like a cosmic slot machine and present your heart's every whim to Him." It's saying, "Put the Lord and Lover of the universe first in your life for if God is who God says He is, that's the only thing that makes sense to do, and He will shape your desires so that they are for what's good for you as you were made and then He will fulfill them. I can't say I'm perfect at putting God first and allowing Him to give me desires as well as fulfill them. But it sure beats endlessly spreadsheeting out every little decision in life on my own like I was the only person who could figure my life out and never getting closer to meaning, purpose, or fulfillment.