Change of Heart

There’s this great scene at the end of Disney’s 1967 hit, The Jungle Book. Mowgli has spent the entire movie fighting to avoid the “man village.” He’s run away from anyone intent on reuniting him with his own kind. Despite his friends’ best attempts to save that scrawny little neck of his from the threat of Shere Khan, and several dangerous jungle scrapes along the way, Mowgli’s driving desire has been to remain in the forest. After encountering and defeating his ultimate enemy, the pint-sized hero finally gets what he wants. Just as he’s about to head into the sunset with Baloo to begin the life of his dreams, Mowgli hears a beautiful voice. He climbs a tree out of curiosity and discovers that the voice belongs to an utterly new creature: a girl.

And then everything changes. With a shrug and a goofy grin, he walks away from his old desire and disappears through the gates into a brand-new future.

What happened? For all his fervor, Bagheera couldn’t reason Mowgli into the man village. Baloo couldn’t lead him there with friendly singing. The ferocity of a tiger couldn’t succeed. Mowgli’s own human heart couldn’t budge him from the jungle. But one sweet song, one flutter of long lashes, and, as the stunned Baloo points out, “He’s hooked.”  

This, friends, is what Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers calls the expulsive power of a new affection. Essentially, a fresh love captivates the attention and reorients everything else in life to itself, pushing out what used to sit on the heart’s throne.

Think about a habit you’ve known for a long time that you need to drop. You probably have plenty of reasons why you should let it go. There might be people around you who would gladly help in the endeavor. You might have even found a few verses of Scripture about this particular vice. 

But.

You just don’t have the want-to. All the shoulds in the world can’t get you through those gates into safe territory. The dangerous predators surrounding you don’t scare you into behaving. Those friends with your best interest at heart can’t convince you. Even Bible passages don’t push you over the brink. You lack the deep-down, life-directing desire. 

Welcome to the club: it’s called the human race.

Just like Mowgli, we need a winsome voice to interrupt our trajectory. A gentle glance. A new perspective of what the future could look like. That’s all it takes. Then those things that previously failed to get us to do what we know is best? They back up and make way for love to lead us. 

This is where the gospel shines, friends. Meditating on the Person and work of Jesus teaches our imagination to hum. The more room we give the Spirit to hover over our inner deeps, the more vibrant we find His vision for our destiny. 

The Old Testament proves that no amount of rules can transform the human heart. A disciplined person might, with great resolve, white-knuckle her way through life, but there’s no joyful rhythm thrumming beneath her activity. Existence is a prison sentence rather than a dance. Jesus shows up on the scene and begins to woo. Where the law had demanded in steely tones, “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not,” the Savior beckons, “Come and see.” 

And with the unforced maneuvering of a great romance, He gets under our skin and alters our desires. It’s an old, old promise:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

This was the plan all along. God never wanted mindless drones to do His bidding, but free sons and daughters thrilling to the echoes of His movement.

It’s time for a soul-level experiment. Settle in for a few minutes and let the sheer magnitude of Christ’s goodness wash over you. Gaze upon those hands, those feet, those eyes. Consider the beauty of His promises. Remember the kindness He’s lavished on you. And then sit with Him as He whispers about the place He’s preparing for you at this very moment.

Only then is it safe to glance back at that habit you’ve meant to leave behind. With the fullness of His loving gaze fixed upon you, what before seemed difficult—impossible, even—is now a gift you long to offer your Beloved. And even in the relaxing of your grip on it, you find His energy powerfully at work within you.

Jesus is our new affection. As we discover how much better He is than anything we’ve experienced in the past, He pushes out those old destructive loves, leaving room for no one but Himself. What a mercy that is!

Only God can change a heart. But, oh, when He does, nothing remains untouched. And like Mowgli trailing love through the gates, we finally find ourselves at home.

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