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….” 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.
Through life, defining events, their circumstances and the emotions concerning them become muddled, distorted, or skewed. In essence, the heart is poorly guarding. Impurities in the form of limited knowledge, inaccurate perceptions, limited processing, flawed conclusions, assumptions, presumption, error, untruth, irrationality, selfishness, self-centeredness, and such are allowed to mold desires or motivations. Desire produces behavior. Values, attitudes, and beliefs shape desires. Wrong desires produce inappropriate behavior. To break destructive and limiting patterns, proper adjustment of values, attitudes, and beliefs must develop. Thus, the inherent wisdom of Paul’s instruction to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:12, NIV) rings clear.
What, if anything, inside me, impedes me from living my dreams, my aspirations, and my calling? Into the increasing darkness I went. From the onset, I determined to be courageous. Past excursions into the depths of the inner chamber have taught me that I would not like everything encountered, or readily embrace the dark truths discovered about myself. Briefly, the nagging side of my personality took control of the internal dialogue. Didn’t you do this already? . . . Yes, you did this when you were first married. Again when you wanted to have a baby and it was taking too long to get pregnant. Let’s not forget the inner spotlight that could have illuminated all of New York. You flipped on that energy drainer after you gave birth to Olivia, your first child. It seems her birth triggered a lot of unresolved issues and had you majorly questioning your ability to parent. Oh, yeah, who could forget the beacon that could have sent an S.O.S to the neighboring galaxy when you had Aaron, the son? When you, a sobbing, snotty, mess asked, “ A boy? ...How can I raise a boy? I don’t think I’m doing so well with the girl God gave me?" Why are you doing this again? What’s left to find out?
Inner work proves difficult, requiring fortitude and courage. Most of all it demands diligence. If a person lives such a hurried life, consumed by the concerns of this life, or diverted by the world’s trivialities, will he find that he has not lived, or worse, has chosen death over life? Not wanting to go through life a zombie, or suffering from arrested development, I silenced the nag and proceeded with the arduous task of getting acquainted with me.
One hundred and ninety-five days and counting. I continue the journey. Some days are good, some bad. At times recoiling at self-revelation, I want to give up, but I continue into the darkness, ferreting out the root of my unsatisfactory circumstances. The heart is deep. The deeper into it I travel, the more its magnitude, clutter, and sparseness become apparent. But into it I continue. For, I look for life—abundant life—freedom, joy, peace, and most importantly, love.
The butterfly is one of the most beautiful and exquisite creatures in the earth. But it does not begin that way. When it hatches from the egg, it’s a caterpillar—worm-like, strange, and creepy to some. Before it transforms into a stunning, delicate creature, it goes inside a structure called a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, in the darkness, away from all activity and life, the pupa transforms. Afterwards, it emerges as a magnificent butterfly.
Enduring change comes from self-discovery. Meandering walks down the halls of the heart leads to self-knowledge and detection of all that hinders abundant living. At the end of this particular journey into deep waters, I hope, not only to know myself better, but also to reflect the beauty of the Divine brighter; better equipped to ascend to higher spiritual and existential levels.
 Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Veronica Jones-Brown writes on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, and Personal Development. She enjoys teaching Sunday school, mentoring, and speaking and training in churches and at conferences. Veronica loves meeting people who desire more of God, saying that interacting with them rejuvenates, inspires, and encourages her. She lives in the East Texas area with her husband James, a wonderful man and Veronica’s greatest supporter. They have two children, Olivia and Aaron. Visit her at www.veronicajonesbrown.com, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.