I don’t always bring my whole heart to the table. This is especially true when it comes to my relationship with God. I hold back a little most of the time.
This approach is wearing me out and draining the life out of my days.
God started pointing this out to me on my recent trip to Ethiopia. I was reading through Psalms and I came across a verse with the phrase ‘whole heart’ in it. I can’t remember the particular verse now, but I remember the feeling of conviction I felt at the moment.
I rarely engage my whole heart when I worship God or take part in my relationships with Him and His children. Some of my heart gets held back and reserved in case things go sideways and I get hurt. Instead, I worship, serve, and fellowship with half of my heart.
I try to make up for this by increasing my enthusiasm and excitement while I worship and serve. Some of my heart still gets left behind though and I miss out on the full experiences God wants to give me. I’m not missing out on a marginal percentage either; there’s a drastic difference between partial and full engagement.
When it comes to engaging our hearts, we can’t get fifty percent of the experience from engaging fifty percent of our hearts. We can either get a taste of the experience or get soaked in it.
For years, I’ve brought fifty to ninety-five percent of my heart to the table and I’ve experienced a very little difference in my times of worshipping, serving, and fellowshipping. On the other hand, I’ve also experienced some rare times of worship or service where it seems like I’ve stepped into something new and different from all my other experiences. My week in Ethiopia was one of those times.
One of the common threads in those times was the full engagement of my heart. I didn’t hold back and I brought my whole heart to the table. The difference was akin to going from hearing a recording of the rain to standing in the middle of a downpour.
Ice cream and frozen yogurt shops gives us another example of this. Whenever I visit one of those shops, I enjoy sampling multiple of the flavors before I make a decision. Imagine for a second going to an ice cream or frozen yogurt shop and walking out after you sample a few flavors.
Now imagine going into the same shop and going all out. Think of the best thing you can get and then add a little awesomeness. The difference between getting those samples and going all out is almost laughable.
You could make the case that it’s not even worth driving to the place just for the samples. Walking out the door after a couple tastes is just cheating yourself. In the same way, I’ve been cheating myself when it comes to experiencing my relationship with God and His children.
Holding back some of my heart gave me years of tasting the wonder and beauty of having a relationship with God. While I could tell I was only getting a taste, I thought I could make up for those tastes by getting enough of them to make a full portion. I assumed signing up for everything my schedule could fit would lead to getting a full experience of God.
This last spring showed me the problem with this approach. I got plenty of little tastes while I poured out all of my energy. It felt like running a marathon with only one little cup of water.
This resulted in me feeling burned out, frustrated, and exhausted.
The same will happen to all of us if we don’t open our hearts to the torrential downpour of God and His love. All of us walk through a desert and yearn for water more than we would like to admit. Getting plugged into a church and serving, worshiping, and fellowshipping will give you a few drops of water.
All of those things will not sate our thirst.
We must bring our whole hearts to those activities and experiences to drink from the deep well of God’s love. This isn’t a performance God requires to please Him, it’s the nature of our hearts. The same lesson applies to every kind of relationship and experience.
Taking a picture of a moment draws you out of it and checking your phone while talking to a friend makes you a spectator in the conversation instead of a contributor. We constantly choose between acknowledging something and jumping in to get the full experience.
Do we want to remain spectators or jump into the wondrous fray of experiencing life with God?
One of the highlights from Ethiopia came from worshipping with the Ethiopians. They knew how to go all out in their worship and they didn’t hold anything back. Looking back, I couldn’t imagine just standing a few feet away and watching them worship. It was one of my greatest pleasures to jump in and enjoy the experience.
Do you hold any of your heart back? Have you ever fully engaged your heart with God? What could you do to help yourself do that more often?
I changed the title of this post at the last minute. When I did, I remembered that we experienced an incredibly heavy rain as we worshipped in this church. I do not think it is a coincidence that this happened after a week of praying for rain at the request of many farmers. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that I used rain for some of my imagery even before I chose to attach this clip.
Image Copyright: Fred Mancosu
Video Copyright: Garret Rayburnby