I’ve been traveling the lonely halls of my soul; lounging in favorite retreats, clearing away cobwebs in unfrequented, shadowy corners; hacking fiercely at newly discovered roots of deceptions, falsehoods, and half-truths that serve to tether me. Attitudes and beliefs hindering my spiritual ascent, at times thwarting my efforts of being, and neutralizing my attempts of emulating Christ, intermittently surface. I’ve come to understand more deeply a profound truth—enduring transformation comes not from acquiring and applying knowledge from outside sources. True change occurs through gaining knowledge of self. 

So often our lives stagnate or unravel depositing us firmly in places we’d rather not be, that incessantly scream for improvement. Instead of advancing, we seem to lose ground. Instead of growing, we seem to regress. Instead of rising, we spiral the drain. Instead of a steady gait, we slip and stumble. Time after time, bewildered, hurt, or stunned by circumstances, events, or emotions many find the monosyllabic question, “WHY?” falling off the lips. More often than not, the answer can be found within. Too often, we become caught in failure’s, defeat’s, bondage’s, or mediocrity’s revolving doors simply because we fail to go to the source of all that’s pertinent in life—the heart. Truly, the deep issues of the heart either propel or encumber.

Besetting patterns ensnare many people. Some struggle with self-deprecating and defeating habits. Others grapple with personality flaws. Still some wrestle with character issues that hinder their spiritual development. Perhaps like many of them, you too are in some way living a limited existence and desire change. You pray, study the Bible, memorize related Scripture, and confide in an accountability partner.  But sadly, find yourself deeper involved in the behavior you passionately vowed never to repeat.

At the moment, I’m revolving around passivity. In my own personal drama this personality issue entails many convoluted, obscure, and contradictory layers. Outwardly, I appear bold, confident, and assertive. Most of the time I am. But sometimes, I find myself immobile, seeing and knowing what needs to change to affect positive outcomes in my life, competent to facilitate the adjustments, but resting on my laurels, waiting for help outside myself.

“I went to the woods,” Henry Thoreau states, “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach….”[1] If we are to forge change in our own lives, we too must go to “the woods”—the woods of the soul. The compass for deliberate living, the source of the essential facts of life, where we gain direction, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding specific to our unique situations is the heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV).

Six months ago frustrated beyond comprehension that many areas in my life seemed to be derailed, put on hold, or vanquished to the outer realms of hope, I went to “the woods.” Desperately wanting, but not having my very own acreage to retreat to, I sequestered myself from the world as much I could, without downright abdicating my roles, duties, and responsibilities of wife and mother. I slowed my pace, limited my schedule, and prepared myself to draw inward to take a long, solid look at myself.

The deepest desires rests in the center of the heart, but often remain concealed. Subsequently, most attempts at modifying unwanted behavior fail because emphasis and energy mainly focus on the behavior, not the cause.