How do you get to this point?
That was the question my wife and I asked ourselves one night. We were just married, had just began ministry in the church and everything was fresh and new and exciting. Yet we were also experiencing at that time a close-up view of several pastors who had either experienced a moral failure, burnout in ministry, or had hearts so hard with pride that they had stopped listening to those desperately trying to help them.
So laying in our beds that night we asked aloud, “How do you get to that point?” How do all these fresh feelings of love and joy and passion turn to hearts hard with greed, anxiety, lust, and pride?
“I don’t remember one jump or one leap, just quiet steps away from your lead.” This lyric from the band Nickel Creek’s song “Reasons Why” holds the key.
No jumps. No leaps. It’s little, even unnoticeable, steps away. The passion of a new marriage or a new calling is not slain most often with one devastating blow but rather dies the death of a thousand small cuts.
How does the joy of a wedding day turn into stagnancy? How does the passion of the honeymoon bed turn into a cold, lifeless marriage from which we seek escape? It’s not by jumps and leaps, but by quiet steps.
You come home from a long day only to find the house a wreck. You wonder in irritation what she did all day while you were at work. There’s a quiet step. That actress wears a revealing dress and you silently wish that your wife’s body looked a little more like that. Quiet step. Your husband seems so distracted and doesn’t do the romantic things he used to. You find yourself wondering if that guy will be at work today and look forward to when he walks by your desk to say hello. Tip toe, tip toe. The daily frustration of family life wears on your heart and you seek to find moments in the day to find respite in searching things on the Internet. Can you hear the quiet feet?
How does the passion of your call to ministry turn to burn out, failure, or even a heart that stays away from obvious sins but sinks slowly into defensiveness and complaint? It’s not by jumps and leaps, but by quiet steps.
A deacon complains that you didn’t make that phone call you said you would. Instead of admitting the wrong, you stack in your heart all the things you have on your plate and justify yourself. There’s a quiet step. A person into whom you invested tons of time leaves on a work transfer or joins another church in the area and you begin to wonder if it was worth it to give him so much of your life. Quiet step. You learn that people will still compliment your sermons because you are a good speaker even though you know that you didn’t put your best effort into your exposition. The time spent in the study shortens and shortens with each year. Tip toe, tip toe. A new person comes to church and that friend you enjoy starts to spend more time with them and less with you. You find your jealous heart making promises not to get too close again. Can you hear the quiet feet?
The last line in that Nickel Creek song says, “With so much deception, it’s hard not to wander away.” There are a thousand things every day that seek to pull your feet just a few inches further from your spouse or your ministry or the joy in God that gives you all good gifts. How do we guard our hearts?
Stay your heart each day upon God! The psalmist says,
“When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You. Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever” (Psalm 73:21-26).
There is so much deception and it is hard not to wander away. But stay your heart upon God! It will expose the quiet steps you may have taken, correct your thinking, and keep your desires fresh and your passion centered. Our flesh and heart fail, they stutter step away, but God will be the strength of our hearts, He is our portion forever. He keeps in perfect peace those whose hearts are stayed upon Him. And He will take us to glory.