It is, of course, a sound and biblical truth that what comes out of our mouths reveals what is in our hearts. And, in turn, it is true that what is in our hearts is desperate wickedness. To be sure we are regenerate, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the old man is still kicking and screaming. Because of the deceit that remains in our hearts, however, we are wont to miss what actually comes out of our mouths. We end up thinking our hearts are rather sunny places because we find rather sunny things coming out of our mouths, at least when people are listening.
I know this because I have just lived this. Over the course of the past few days, I have found myself logging some long hours and long miles on this nation’s interstate system. That’s not all that unusual. With a family as large as mine, road trips come along for the ride.
What has been unusual is that I have been driving alone. I’ve been alone in the car on some rather crowded highways. That, sadly, doesn’t mean I have been driving in silence. If my windows could talk, well, parental guidance is suggested.
When we assess our hearts via assessing our minds, I suspect we tend to pick those memories which are the safest, the tamest recordings we can remember. We think that how we spoke to that sweet old woman at the library with the big cross around her neck reflects what is actually in our hearts. In truth, it may be what we say when no one is listening that reveals us most fully.
This is because of common grace. It, along with the spread of the gospel in Western culture, has created notions of manners, chivalry, and discretion. We understand that some things are just not said in polite company. Or at least most of us do.
There are both psychological and physical ailments that can restrain whatever mechanisms we have that restrain our speech. Some folks are missing that filter that greases social discourse. They are the ones who are quick to point out that you’ve put on some weight. Children, in turn, can be slow to develop these nuances. They aren’t afraid to ask why two of my sons have skin that is so much darker than my own.
Most of us also are missing the nuances when we are engaged in internal conversation, when we are just talking to ourselves. We think it is safe to be honest in the quiet of our own minds. There we admit our dislike of this neighbor, and perhaps even our attraction to that neighbor. There we confess to our own assurance that we are quite gifted with this skill, that we are the ones deserving of this honor or that. We seem to think that these things can’t hurt us as long as we don’t speak them, as long as we keep them inside.
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. What comes out of our hearts reveals what we are. What goes into our hearts, that creates what we are. Our internal dialogue is not meaningless background noise. It becomes instead the soundtrack of our lives.
We are blessed to live in an age and a culture which has easy access to the Word of God. And we are cursed to live in an age and culture which has easy access to the Word of God. Our fathers had to internalize the Word of God. They sang the Psalms so they would learn them. They learned them so they could sing them, even if it was only in the quiet of their own minds. We, on the other hand, are more apt to have the wisdom of last night’s big winner on American Idol reverberating in our minds. We have Bibles in every room in our homes and apps on our smart phones, but we don’t hide it in our hearts.
When I was driving down the highway yelling and sputtering, I did so reflecting the wisdom of the world. What I was saying was: “I am important. I have important things to do. I have to hurry. You all are failing to understand how to treat me properly.” What I should have been thinking was more like this: “If the Lord wills, I will get there on time.”
The song I should have had playing in my mind was “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” What I should have been rejoicing over is the glorious gospel truth that when I am stuck in traffic, I am already where I need to be, that no matter how many more miles I have to drive, the kingdom I am called to pursue first is already with me.
What I and we all need to remember is that whether we are alone in the car or alone with our thoughts, there is no thought in the woods that no one hears. The Word Himself hears every word, and every word of ours that is not an Amen to every word of His will burn up as wood, hay, and stubble. What I should have thought about in that traffic was not a resigned but a joyful reminder: “Where else can I go Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life.”