Recently as I was at my first “in person” Nextgen conference, I was there to just be. I had not gotten permission to do that in a long time.

As I was listening to some of the speakers, I was taking in so much. I was learning and processing. At one point both the content and application were new, and we wanted them both! Usually, I am in a position to look for something new I can learn/apply or what is God saying specifically to me and trying really hard to listen. I was now in a situation where there was so much to learn about a deeper spirituality to consider.

I guess it could be likened to drinking from a firehose that made me thirsty-but in a good way. We usually use that term at a work conference or church conference in a way there was just too much information to take it in. However, I believe some of these things were reaching a deeper level in my heart and now for many others.

Since the Virtual NextGen-whatever millennium that was, in whichever Covid galaxy far far away, it has sent me on a journey of understanding that “God cares about my heart”. That to really focus in on and listen to the Scripture that says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37). As far as I can tell, there are 6 places in the OT that tell us to do that. All of them start with the “heart”. None of them have “mind”. In the NT passages “mind” is mentioned in both Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Loving God with our “heart” is mentioned first, and then “soul”, similar to the OT passages.”

Recently one of the NextGen leaders posited this thought that I have been processing with him. It goes something like this,

“In our western culture I do not remember anyone questioning that I couldn’t trust my mind.” The idea is that we assume if we think hard enough, long enough, get the right theological training, we are spiritual!

Except spirituality is something different and much more complex than just the mind, and we could talk all day about the intersection there, but clearly the “heart” and “soul” are distinct things. Similarly, he stated something like, “I don’t remember people teaching me I could trust my heart/feelings”. Again, the idea is that it is not that we can trust our feelings and forsake the mind. It is challenging the idea that we can trust one exclusively over the other. I mean, isn’t our mind fallen as well? Aren’t our feelings given to us by God?

For the advent season, our family has been reading A. W. Tozer’s From Heaven: 28 day advent devotional. There was a particular quote that jumped out to me with the similar theme of addressing the intellectual and heart in our faith. He writes, “While faith contains an element of reason it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were not more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct, and personal.”

These discussions are not new. Tozer wrote about this years ago. However, I think the time could be ripe for a fresh discussion, a personal discussion about what faith looks like in our lives. A personal inventory, if you will, of what our faith really is inside of us, in our hearts, minds, and motives of our actions.

The gap of understanding here in Western culture is wide. And I can’t help but think how processing caring for our hearts is just the beginning of a journey and a discussion about how the heart and mind are important. The results of engaging this meditation could be far-reaching, crossing cultural and political barriers, and bringing in what might be most important-the unity of God’s church as one in a time where we desperately need it. Maybe this season of year-December, and this time in your life, is the exact moment we need to pay attention to what makes us upset, what makes us happy, and what makes us feel closer to God. Maybe paying attention to our hearts is exactly what the world needs now. It couldn’t come at a better time, as we process the life and the love of the incarnation.