The Wizard of Oz always fascinated me. Maybe it was the singing and the dancing or the pair of glittery heels with the power to change everything that impacted me so much. Or when reality shifted from greyscale to Technicolor and the world was new. I think, at the bottom, it was the characters. Remember the Tin Man? While the Scarecrow desired a brain and the Lion wanted courage, the Tin Man longed for a heart. How often have I found myself in those same metal shoes, not really feeling stupid and not really feeling afraid, but not really feeling much of anything because the heart is out of place?
As we prepare ourselves to encounter God in Scripture, we prepare our whole selves.
Admittedly, this is rather uncomfortable territory for me. I’d much rather depend on my ability to reason things out than on the deficiency of my emotional health. But God, that kind, wise, loving King of ours, is giddy about the idea of relationship, and you can’t have much of one with just a brain on legs. He could’ve created robots with no affection, so the fact that He didn’t should clue us into the importance of the human heart. We must not neglect it (our own or others’).
So how might one go about readying her heart?
Acknowledging its present state is a helpful starting point. Spend a few minutes running a check on your heart. What’s going on inside it? Which emotions are taking up the most space, and what are they revolving around? Do you sense shame? Anger? Resentment? Fear? Bring them gently into the open and take them to the Father. (Yes, this is a joint effort. God enters into your emotional preparations with you, a true and safe presence full of curiosity.) The feelings hardest to admit are the ones most necessary to name. Obscurity has claimed your heart long enough—it’s time to invite light into the shadow places.
Once you’ve clearly articulated what you’re feeling and why, ask for help. These emotions don’t own you, and part of your spiritual birthright is taking dominion back from the darkness, restoring order to chaos. Allow the Lord to shape each feeling into the size and form He chooses. Don’t be surprised if transformation occurs: He has a habit of turning ashes into beauty, despair into hope, fear into faith. It’s the asking that sets our eyes upon Him and the receiving that builds our trust.
When He’s put your emotions into order, He invites you deeper. Sin issues surface not to shame you but to free you. Repentance (owning the worst, reflecting on the pride or unbelief that feeds it, disconnecting your identity from it, and asking for help going forward) smells of joyful release. No more boxing with those shadows. You’re really and completely free, and a bubbly lightness overtakes your heart as you let go of the dead weight you’ve carried for too long.
“This way,” you hear the Spirit whisper. Apparently He’s not finished yet.
Now you sink from what you’ve been struggling with to what is forming you—the deep loves that motivate at the most fundamental levels of your being. (It’s okay to admit this is the scary part.) We can really only dismantle our idols when we are truly convinced that God is better. As the gospel infuses our lives, though, it releases our death grip on the need for safety or power or acceptance or significance because we realize we already have them in Christ. This is where David would turn inward and preach truth to himself (the “O my soul” bits).
Because sacrificing to anything or anyone besides God steals parts of ourselves, the Lord stands hard on this ground. But because idolatry is intimate, it feels very personal, like He is attacking the core of who we are.
Friends, He’s not fighting you. He’s fighting for you. He’s won your freedom with love, so all that’s left is to disengage your heart from the captors dragging it deathward. You’re the battleground, but you are also a warrior taking up arms with the Spirit against the enemy. You’re not a helpless, passive observer. Enter the fray and sing truth to your captive heart.
I’ll pull a David and preach to myself here for the sake of illustration: “What sense is there in allowing the throne of your heart to be occupied by anyone who didn’t die for you stretched out on a tree? Jesus lived perfectly on your behalf, and that work is finished—there’s no need to be afraid of making a mistake. He was abandoned so you don’t have to be. He was beaten so you could be healed. He rose again so you could taste victory morning after morning after morning. The comfort He gives is truer, better, deeper, longer than any other. His love is strong and unshakable, and it’s not going anywhere. You are safe. Stop chasing lesser things! Be loved. Embrace the fact that He is all. you. need. forever.” See? Not so hard. Now you try.
Strongholds crumble. Demons flee. Worship rises. Now you’re ready.