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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clear paths

8 Grow a wise heart—you'll do yourself a favor;
   keep a clear head—you'll find a good life. 
(Proverbs 19:8)

Within these two sentences, two words give us direction, two words describe a condition, and two words reveal the focus.  The two words that give us direction are "grow" and "keep".  The two that describe a condition are "wise" and "clear". The two indicating the focus are "heart" and "head".  Let's dig a little deeper....

Two words of direction:
  • Grow - the first thing that comes to mind when we consider growing is the natural outcome of development in which something or someone increases in size or capacity.  As we consider this in light of our Christian walk, we see growth as more than "natural" development - in also encompasses "supernatural" development.  That is the increase in our capacity that comes from time with Jesus.  One of the least common definitions of "grow" is that of attachment.  It is a process of attachment that occurs by close association with that which you attach to.  A gardener will tell you this process begins with "grafting" one branch or stem into the "parent" tree, vine, or bush.  Jesus reminds us that he is that vine - we are the branches - grafted into him.  By close association to him, we begin to grow through that attachment.
  • Keep - we usually gravitate to the idea of holding onto something when we consider the meaning of "keep".  Yet, it also carries the idea of continuing a given course, action, or state.  When we are "keeping" something in this sense, we are involved in actively ensuring the course is consistent and focused.  It means that we refrain from departing from a specific path - there is an element of restraint that is utilized in order to remain consistent in our focus.
Two words describing a condition:
  • Wise - the first condition address deals with discernment, judgment, and discretion.  The "condition" is connected with growth.  Discernment is the ability to evaluate two options and choose the best.  Since our growth is directly correlated with our choice of "attachment", it is important to choose the best attachment.  Judgment affects our actions because it is associated with the matter of acting upon what we believe to be correct.  It is associated with growth because it deals with discretion - choosing those things that produce right actions.  
  • Clear - the second condition is frequently described as the absence of that which clouds or that which gives transparency.  As it applies to the idea of being kept, there is a great deal of "path-finding" that is clouded with all kinds of uncertainty, potholes of pride, and pitfalls of emotional upheaval.  The condition of transparency is associated with us being kept - refraining from certain courses of action that will produce certain "road hazards" along the path of our walk.  
Two words that describe our focus:
  • Heart - we often gravitate to the "nebulous" meaning of heart - that which describes our capacity for sympathy, the ability to connect with others, etc.  We need to look a little deeper at "heart" in order to understand the importance of this word.  It is the seat of all that gives us personality - our emotional make-up.  The heart is to be growing and it is to do so in a wise manner.  In other words, all that gives us our "internal make-up" is to be intimately connected (associated) with Jesus so that we learn to discern well.  Our emotions are unreliable - our "spirit" is not enough to keep us on track at times.  We form wrong attachments at a whim - stunting growth completely.  Our passage reminds us that we are to "grow a wise heart" - in so doing, we are avoiding those things that do us "dis-favor" in life.
  • Head - we associate "head" with the mind or thought life.  The "head", or rather, what is contained in the head (our brain), gives us the capacity to reason, rationalize, and rehearse.  We are reminded to keep our minds clear.  That includes learning to reason things out as Christ would - utilizing the "tools" he gives (the Word, the Holy Spirit, and our conscience).  It also includes the idea of being able to be rational in thought - able to proceed in a course because reason has proven a path to be best.  The often overlooked "capacity" of the mind is that of rehearsal.  We use this capacity to both reminisce about the good and continuously remember the bad.  The head is associated with being kept clear - in turn producing a good life.  Thoughts lead to action - that is why the focus is on clarity.  Clear thoughts lead to more transparent actions.
Two words, two conditions, describing two aspects of focus in our lives.  Consider them well - they will keep your path clear!