by Jerry Gentry
"The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint" (Isa. 1:5).
"I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Ths. 5:23).
It is a sad commentary on the Christian walk. We do things we know we should not do. And we fail to do that which we know we should do, all too often. Why?
The apostle Paul experienced this problem. He said: "what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . . For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Rom 7:15, 19).
The apostle Paul was a gifted apostle. To an exhorter, Paul provides stirring argument, admonition, advice, and appeal. To a teacher, his writings are deep and detailed. To an organizer, he lives an orderly, functional, structured and self supporting life. To a giver, he dedicates his all. To a server, Paul is a tireless minister.
Yet the apostle Paul demonstrates two additional gifts, the head of a prophet and bowels of mercy, two gifts which are at constant warfare with each other. To the Colossians, Paul's tender heart shines: "Put on. . . bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;" (Col. 3:12), he exhorts. To the Hebrews, he draws the line: "And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed" (Hebr. 12:13).
It is easy for the prophet in us to become heartless in our condemnation. And it is easy for our "bowels of mercies" to carry us far away from "straight paths for your feet." It is difficult to temper our heads with heartfelt caring. It is troublesome to train our hearts to hold the straight line, the narrow path of truth, when we walk through the valley of temptation or feel the pain of someone's suffering.
What is it about our nature that makes life such a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, mountain peaks and valleys, pinnacles and pits? How can Christians find the key to leveling out life's mental and emotional gyrations and establish an even keel? We must not lose our heart as we endeavor to use our heads and walk the straight and narrow. We must hold the line of truth, while we express our feelings, without following our feelings into compromise and sin.
We must understand there are two opposite poles built into every human being. We will call these poles north and south. The north pole is the hard line of a prophet, the right versus wrong pole, the thinking and knowing pole. The south pole is that of caring, the feeling pole, from whence we ache and cry and laugh and share the joys and hurts of others and exercise "bowels of mercies." God made us to be both thinkers and feelers, logical and emotional, rational yet affectionate. Thinkers are full of cold, logical, rational thoughts. Feelers are full of emotion-packed ideas. "What if we did this together," the feeler asks, with a beaming smile and the emotional electricity of anticipation. The thinker naturally says, "Mmmm. Let me think about that!"
As individuals, we are both head and heart wrapped up into one package. We are not two people, but one. If we fail to understand this nature in ourselves, our two poles, and keep these poles in balance, letting our head test our heart, always relating with our heart, but considering the end with our head, we will often crash and burn mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
Let me illustrate.
In the old western TV series, Gunsmoke, Sheriff Matt Dillon played the strong, logical thinker type, who broke up fist fights, sobered up drunks and brought the bank robbers to justice. He was a loner of a law man. The script writers knew he needed balance. So they created his wry, limping sidekick Chester, later replaced by a bumbling buffoon named Festus, who both brought humor and emotion to the otherwise very dry script. If Matt Dillon was a strong head, Chester and later Festus were the laughing heart of these old western movie flicks. The series captivated both head and heart of viewers for 20 seasons, 633 episodes, chalking up one of the longest running series in American television.
You know people like Matt Dillon. And you know some Chesters, even a Festus type. Early in life many children are seen to be strong, quiet thinkers. Others are identified as emotionally expressive feelers and talkers. Sometimes thinkers have trouble getting their feelings out. Sometimes emotionally expressive talkers get so far ahead of their thinking, that they get dubbed as airheads. That is why blond jokes are popular, not because blonds are less intelligent. You know both these types.
What we must understand is that God placed both poles in each of us, but not in equal amounts. The more we get in touch with ourselves, the more we can get our act together and use our thinking and our feeling poles to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow man.
The heart is our seat of emotion, of feeling, of caring, of affectionate mercy. With our hearts we fall in love. With our hearts we feel another's pain. With our hearts, we relate and build friendships. With our hearts we become motivated. Our hearts are where sharing begins. If the engine of an automobile is the head, that driving force that moves the car down the road, the heart is the battery that provides the spark that gets everything moving. Without the engine, the battery is useless. Without the battery, the engine is dead. Without the head, the heart is like a disconnected battery. Without the heart, the head is like a computer memory bank in sleep mode or like an engine turned off.
So it is with humans. When we are burnt out emotionally, our minds will not work and we cannot think straight. In computer lingo, we are experiencing a system crash.When we are not thinking straight, our emotions carry us down one fruitless, compromising rabbit trail after another. The prophet in us (our head pole) is useless without affection and mercy. The affection in us (our heart pole) is misguided without the straight line of the right vs. wrong thinker in us. This idea is illustrated further in the Bible.
"Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach [by using your head] them thy sons, and thy sons' sons" (Deut. 4:9). Both head and heart are in perfect balance. No great prophet of God can do his work without first having his heart right with God. The prophet Ezra applied this great truth.
"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments" (Ezra 7:10). He knew His job of restoring the kingdom would require not only his head, but a great deal of caring heart and emotional energy as well. So, he "prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD."
The Psalmist illustrates this same great truth: "Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name" (Ps. 86:11). He knew his head was useless without unity with his heart.
Head knowledge is never enough to make a useful servant of God. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips" (Prov. 16:23). Yes, it is the heart that turns on the light switch of truth, which sets our mouth and lips to moving aright. But without the light of truth, we become little more than yippy-yappers, speaking "with flattering lips and with a double heart" (Psa. 12:2). That is the speech of an air head, a fool, a person not using his head properly, a person whose north pole is wobbling like a spinning top about to wind down and spin out of control.
Even wisdom is somewhat a function of the heart and not just our heads: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psa. 90:12). With our hearts we emotionalize God's word, thus building a wellspring of wisdom, like a balanced top, spinning perfectly upright on it's axis. With our hearts, we feel the truth deep inside our souls and spirits, not just in our heads. Only by emotionalizing great truths of the Bible can we truly obey the first and great commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). How do we love God "with all thy heart?" By learning great Bible truths in our head, then by emotionalizing those same truths in our heart, through prayer and meditation.
David understood and applied this great truth: "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97). David emotionalized the law of God, kept it spinning upright in his heart through meditation.
Do people say you have a one track mind? Do you fail to listen to, feel and share with others? It is because your head/heart poles are out of balance. You tend to be a thinker. You cannot understand why someone you love is always feeling hurt and crying. So you tell the person not to cry and explain how they need to get a grip. Then they cry all the more! You throw up your hands. Then they really boo-hoo. Or worse still, they go into a fit of anger and slam the door in your face.
Mr. Thinker, you need to have a heart, get some feeling into your life, learn how to exercise your south pole "bowels of mercies." People who live at the south pole of their being (feelers) most of the time are in constant need of help to keep focused. They have great need to be listened to, felt with, reassured. It is up the the north pole dwellers to listen to lots of feelings, even bad feelings, and sort them out gently and mercifully with longsuffering, yet uncompromisingly. In keeping a handle on right and wrong, we cannot afford to go cold. We must learn to cry with the aching sufferer, laugh with the jubilant rejoicer, share with the incessant talker, until they too learn to get a grip. And in the process, Mr. Thinker, you too will learn to have a little heart. You must express feelings, dare to test a crazy idea, tear down that wall you have built between yourself and the real world.
Why do thinkers fail to feel, fail to relate, fall short of the mark in exercising affection?
We fail because we thinkers don't trust our feelings. Having been burned all too often ourselves, we retreat to the cold, calculated world of knowing, until that too fails us and vanishes into irrelevance (1Cor. 13:8). We must confess the incompleteness of merely knowing the right answer. We must learn to feel with the suffering south pole dweller, whose head is clouded and confused, who does not always get to the bottom line as quickly as do north pole dwellers.
How important it is to get our act together, both head and heart. Over time, society apart from God tends to degenerate in both poles of our being.
The prophet Isaiah tells of a time in national Israel when "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint" (Isa. 1:5). We live in that time. Crooked ways have brought our heads low and made our hearts faint. Following any standard of life outside the Word of God makes the head sick and the heart weak. Today, we are a nation of sickly and spiritually impotent people: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts" (Prov. 21:2).
Do your have your head on straight? Is your heart right with God? Then you will get your act together by exercising both mercy and truth with head and heart, the two poles of your being, in perfect balance. That is a hard act to follow.