O Lord you watch over my soul
You know my heart
Lead me on to eternity, to eternity
Lead me on to eternity, to eternity
(English translation of Taizé song "Seigneur, tu gardes mon âme")
1 John 3:18-20:
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
One of the Epistle readings in the Daily Office a few days ago started off with 1 John 3:19. When I backtracked into it, I wondered why verse 18 wasn't the start of the reading, because when you put it all together, it makes more sense. So here it is, tacked together.
When I tacked it together, the very first thing that popped into my head was the Taizé chant above--one of my favorites. As I drove around on one of my monthly "country hospital visits," I sang that chant, among others, and pondered this reading.
I think it's important, before I start talking about this passage, to mention a little about the Greek word "condemn" in this passage. We see the word "condemn" and we have pretty strong feelings about it, often along the lines of imprisoning, consigning to Hell, or whatnot. The Greek word in this passage is "kataginōskō"--from "kata" (against) and "ginōskō" (to learn to know or become to know.) It's not nearly as strong a word as we tend to take it. It simply means "Things that prevent us from coming to truly know stuff." It's about how our feelings sometimes hide our thoughts from the truth.
In these 50 days of Easter, as I make a concerted effort to see Resurrection daily in my life, I am reminded of all the people I know who are in various forms of "recovery."--whether "recover" is in the form of life's wounds, addiction or dependence on various substances, loss of some sort, or various abuses. Actually, if we choose it, we are all in a state of some kind of recovery--everyone is a recovering-something-or-another, when you get right down to it--but it requires each person to "live their own recovery."
Recovery involves "dealing with feelings." I don't find feelings as the ultimate arbiter of truth very useful, but our society seems to use them as a trump card. "But that's how I feel," seems to be the "big excuse" for some folks. I'm not a person who tends to use that one, but I can't say I haven't used that one myself on occasion. I don't like how "But that's how I feel," is used to justify people being rude, hurtful jerks, or displaying a sense of entitlement, or using it as a means to not see the truth in our relationships with others--that we could have been all wrong about people or our "take" on a situation.
Our "hearts" (read: Feelings) betray us all the time. These betrayals keep us from the messy business of forgiveness. The feelings of anxiety, resentment, jealousy, fear, shame, and guilt are most certainly real feelings. But if we simply stop there, and say, "But that's how I feel," we are not taking responsibility for our feelings, we are simply allowing them to shield us from the truth that God knows our hearts--already. God knows the good and the bad both in there.
I've discovered that, at best, how I feel about something at the time it is happening is a 50-50 coin flip as to whether or not that's an accurate feeling. Take the feeling of "avoidance." Now, about half the time, when I feel I ought to avoid something, it's right on the money because it involves an immediate bad outcome. But the other half of the time, it turns out I'm feeling "avoidance" because the right thing to do is actually NOT to avoid it. I'm wanting to avoid it because it might involve being vulnerable in some way to "do the right thing, or because it's hooked to an old unpleasant memory that has nothing at all to do with the present situation, and there's "overlap."
What I'm learning is that feelings are more likely to create a state of "kataginōskō" than not. They are more likely to work against any of us "coming to know" than they are to help us sort out the truth about things. It is where "coming to God with an open heart in prayer" becomes useful. When I lay my feelings on the altar, and simply observe what is happening around me, things begin to clarify. When I take my time and process my feelings, I become less open to a specific outcome. I've come to learn when we accept God knows our hearts, we are more likely to be people of "truth and action" in helping to repair the broken-ness of the world.