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  • Sanyade Okoli

A happy heart is a happy life


There is a saying that as your heart goes, so goes your life (well, at least I think there is, and if there isn’t, there is one now 🙂).


You see, we live from the place of our hearts; whether we are conscious of it or not.

The New Living Translation version of Proverbs 4:23 puts it beautifully, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”


Yet, all too often, we leave our hearts unguarded. Over and above who we allow into our lives, who do we give access to our hearts? This is not so much about who we fall in love with. That too, but so much more. It’s about who we allow to influence the condition of our hearts, who we allow to influence our hearts and consequently the direction of our lives.


Let me explain. Our heart is made up of our mind, will and emotions. Our thought life and our emotions influence our will - what we want, when we want it and how we want it. Our will, in turn, influences our actions. You’ve definitely heard people say that we first create things in our minds before we create them in the physical realm. It’s the same principle - the outside of our life is simply the physical manifestation of our inside world.


Digging into this further, in what state is our inside world and how did it get there?


From my experience in the inner healing ministry, I now understand that so much of who we are as adults is shaped in our childhood. Our early life experiences create a lens through which we see life. More so than most people realise.


For example, someone who grew up with critical parents is likely to be very self-critical. There is this voice in their head constantly criticizing them, finding fault with them even where this no fault. Unfortunately, this has such debilitating effects, not least a crushed self-confidence. The person may feel like nothing they do is ever good enough, typically manifesting itself in one of two ways. Either taking the view of, “Why bother as it’s not going to be good enough anyway?” or they may spend all their life trying to seek approval.


Let’s explore these two routes some more. The person who has imbibed the defeatist mindset is highly unlikely to be all God called them to be as they simply did not bother to try. Their negative thought life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They think they are not good enough, so they don’t take steps to fulfil their potential and consequently live with this constant nagging feeling that there is a gap between where their lives are and where it could be. This continues to fuel the view that they are not good enough; especially when they make the fatal mistake of comparing themselves to others. Comparison is a destiny killer!


Then let’s take the other person who spends his or her life trying to measure up. They may end up pushing themselves hard on many or all fronts (e.g. workaholism) trying to satisfy the inner critic. This over-drive, unfortunately, usually has ramifications on many aspects of one’s life, especially health and relationships. When the person sees the effects on areas such as key relationships (whether they join the dots or not) it leads to more feelings of “not being good enough”.


The truth is that “inner critic” can never be satisfied. The only way to deal with it is to silence it with the truth. I’ll share more on how at the end.


In these two examples, the people are allowing their parents to have continued influence over their hearts, and therefore their lives, well into their adulthood. Sometimes even until they leave this earth.


I have used being raised in a critical environment as one example. There are countless ways that the environment and circumstances in which we are raised affect us. Only until we recognize and address the root issues of the areas of our lives with which we are dissatisfied will we begin to see the change we want.


I’d like you to think of your heart as a garden. What state is it in? Is it well tended or is it overgrown with weeds such as rejection, guilt, shame, fear, etc.?


If there are weeds, do you know the root? As an example, below is an illustrative emotional tree.



It shows that underneath the negative emotions that we feel today are painful experiences, often deeply buried. This sounds obvious. The challenge, however, is joining the dots between yesterday’s experiences and today’s emotions.


I have good news however! Though the garden of your heart belongs to you, it does not mean you have to bear the sole responsibility for tending and guarding it. The reality is that we can’t completely do so on our own anyway. We have a Head Gardener and Head Gatekeeper in the person of God. There is nothing He would love more than to help you with the tending and guarding of your heart. The only thing is that for Him to do so, you have to give Him your heart. Now I don’t just mean “accepting Christ”. I mean handing over your heart, and therefore your life, to Him completely.


To put it in context, I gave my life to Christ about twenty-five years ago and then about a year later took it back again 🙂. Thankfully, about 18 months thereafter I returned it to the rightful owner 🙂. With this context in mind, earlier this year the Holy Spirit shone the torch on an area of my heart that I had walled off from Jesus due to a painful experience twenty years ago (See https://www.justasiam.ng/post/get-them-walls-down to learn more about heart walls). The point here is that I had given my heart to Christ decades ago but there were still areas of my heart I had not fully submitted to Him.


So, if you’d like to undertake a heart-weeding exercise, here’s a suggestion of how to go about it. Even if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones because whether you realise it or not, they are eating the fruit of your roots. For example, for those of us who are parents, what seeds are we sowing today? I'll leave you reflecting on that and more.


Reflections

  • Spend time asking God to show you areas of your heart where there may be “weeds”.

  • Ask Him to show you what those weeds are. You may get a mental picture, a memory, a thought, an emotion, a word. Whatever it is, work with it.

  • Dealing with each “weed” one at a time, ask Him when it first came into your life. Again, pay attention to what comes to your mind.

  • Ask Him what lie you are believing relating to that situation.

  • Forgive the people associated with the “weed”.

  • Ask God what His truth is concerning the situation. I highly recommend that you write the truths down somewhere different from everything else so you can keep them and meditate on them until they go deep into your heart.

Happy uprooting and replanting!

Like this? Then please share and/or subscribe for more "weekly-ish" posts. You can also follow me on Instagram @sanyadeokoli where I share "daily-ish" pithy musings 🙂.

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