Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Perhaps the major reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it was never encouraged. As children, were taught instead to monitor our behavior. In other words, we were taught to behave. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. If we misbehaved, not-so-good things happened. My parents believed in spanking. So the not-so-good things got my attention early. I modified my behavior so as to avoid pain, and I’ve been doing that ever since….
But it’s not just our avoidance of pain that drives us. Good behavior can be rewarding. As a professional Christian – a pastor, by trade – I am paid to be good. So I have learned to modify my words and behavior so as not to damage my reputation and, thus, my career. You’ve no doubt done the same thing. Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do. Not because you don’t want to, but because of the professional ramifications. Perhaps there are some words and phrases you won’t use, in spite of the fact that they accurately convey what you are feeling. I’ll bet there are some people you pretend to like because it is beneficial to you. …
But all of this pretending can be problematic because pretending allows you to ignore the true condition of your heart. As long as you say the right thing and do the right thing, you’re tempted to believe that all is well. That’s what your childhood experience taught you. But when your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble. Eventually your heart – the real you – will outpace your attempts to monitor and modify everything you say and do. The unresolved issues stirring around undetected in your heart will eventually work their way to the surface. Specifically, they will seep into your actions, your character, and your relationships. If your heart continues to go unmonitored, whatever ‘thing’ is growing in there will worsen to the point that you are no longer able to contain it with carefully managed words and behaviors.
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.
Human beings, as we’ve just noted, bear God’s image. We “take after” God, so to speak—much as we might say that a child “takes after” his earthly father. It means that we share with God some aspect of his character, his nature, even his gifts. In the immediate context of Genesis, this means two things. Because man bears the image of a Creator, we share in his capacity for creativity. And because we bear the image of God’s divine community (Father, Son, and Spirit), we share in his capacity for relationship.
Or perhaps “capacity” is too clinical a term for such elemental gifts. For these qualities are indeed divine gifts, just as human language likewise has its origin in God himself. In his recent work on the clarity of Scripture, Mark Thompson notes that “God is himself the source of human language. He is the first speaker and invests language with a deep significance for generation and nourishing personal relationships.”
If language is a divine gift, writing becomes a liturgical practice. It is through language that the human needs for creativity and relationship are brought together. Surely writing is not the only means of human communication, but there is a uniqueness to the craft that cannot be so easily snuffed out by a so-called “post-literate” world. When we write, we write to engage the world—or at least our small corner of it. We write in order to hone our God-given skills of creativity and make a meaningful contribution to humanity’s collective imagination. We write because it’s in our blood, in our hands, in our soul.
Christianity says that God’s Word shaped God’s original creation, but God’s Word likewise takes prominence in God’s new creation. “In the beginning was the Word,” John tells us—cribbing lines from the opening pages of Genesis. The Word of God, once confined to the page now takes on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Christianity calls this the incarnation, meaning that in Jesus God literally became a human being to walk among us, to share life with us, and to give his life that we might live.
Writing is part of the way we engage and share the gospel narrative. Writing is therefore an incarnational practice, a means by which the story of God is translated into the various languages of human culture.
Living the gospel narrative means not only “take and read” but also “write and give.” Every voice is different. Every voice matters.