For someone with longish legs, the distance at most platforms seems minimal so why draw attention to it? It began a train of thought (pardon the pun) about gaps in my life that seem negligible at first but grow wider quickly. The most significant of these was a growing feeling of a lack of closeness to God.
This had been niggling since the start of the year which seemed strange as (for once) I’d stuck to my resolutions. I was keeping up with my monthly Bible reading plan, trying to fill spare minutes with wholesome podcasts, and I’d tried to cut back on certain activities to focus on home life (a struggle for a ‘to-do list’ addict but that’s a subject for another article!) And yet... I couldn’t ignore the dullness in my heart; the increasing dryness of my daily reading; the awareness of a distance that was resulting in me praying less and less. Whilst all my new goals were being dutifully fulfilled outwardly, had I conveniently forgotten to look inwards? Jeremiah warns:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind’” (Jeremiah 17:9,10 ESV).
Some of the specific sins of the heart are elaborated on by Paul in Ephesians:
“give no opportunity to the devil...Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up...And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God...Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:27-32 ESV).
I can’t let my anger simmer and refuse to forgive an ill-judged comment; brood over a slight I’ve received and speak corruptly about the culprit; rage impatiently at my children when they’re failing; be consumed with bitterness and envy over someone else’s superior talents. I can’t be guilty of all this within my heart and still expect a closeness with the One who searches it and knows it! The verses above teach me these sins grieve Him and whilst my heart can deceive me into overlooking them because they are hidden, this makes them no less heinous. Fortunately, the same chapter of Ephesians contains the solution, which is:
“to put off your old self which...is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).
As ever, there is a beautiful balance in God’s plan for our lives. At the same time as living in the good of my new self in Christ, I need to remember I still have a fleshly heart that regularly needs its corrupt thoughts and deceitful desires put off. I need to mind that gap as it might just signify my heart is deceiving itself and needs searching. Praise God that, if we do find ugly thoughts lurking there, we need only confess them to continue in the enjoyment of abiding in Him, as expressed very well in this hymn:
Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Saviour, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.