But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40
How do we test our hearts? God tests hearts in story after story in the Bible, Abraham, Job, Peter, the rich young lawyer, the woman with a demonized daughter.. God made our heart and what is in it is important to him. He made us with feelings for a reason. St. Ignatius of Loyola was like a pioneer in spiritual direction. He encouraged people to be open to their emotions and to learn how to attend to them and understand what they meant. He believed that God often communicates with us through the deepest desires of our hearts.
Vinita Wright has practiced Ignatian spirituality and written about it for a decade. To test your heart, she suggests stepping back to get more objective emotional views, gather more information, share them in a trusted community, seek wise counsel, and get quiet and still enough to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in your heart. Our emotions are real and powerful tools in our spiritual life. They are our perceptions and tell what’s going on inside our heart. We must hold our emotions up to Scripture to see if they align with how God designed us, what he made us to do. If we can accept our emotions as gifts of the human experience, we can begin to work with them in spiritually healthy ways.
How do you interact with your emotions? Do you deal with them or ditch them? Most of us live with a combination of engagement and avoidance. God gave people pattern-seeking and meaning-making tendencies. Take some time to notice the patterns in how you deal with your heart and emotions. When do you listen to your heart? When do you avoid it? Much of what the men and women in the Bible learned and gained was through a testing itself, in addition to the outcome. Test yours and see.
By Donna Burns