Once upon a time, when my office had been relocated to my 6th desk in 3 years, I regularly caught myself biting my lips shut. Not just one lip. It was as if I was self-stifling. I’d be working and suddenly realize the blood flow to my mouth had been cut off and I was to blame.
This is a tension response of mine. We all have different ones. Idiosyncratic rhythms that play involuntarily. I see these tells in my loved ones – she thumbs her fingertips, he tugs his beard hairs. It’s universal; our hearts red-flag us that we are at risk.
What bothered me was that my body was reacting to things without involving my mind, so, I prayed about it.
What is this tension, God, what’s up with this stress? Can you show me what’s going on in my heart right there? Trigger me to check-in when ever I bite my lips.
And he did.
It turns out the heart’s reflexes are hardwired to what we believe about what’s going on and what we believe about God right then, too, for those of us reliant on his sovereignty. Even if you aren’t in that group, what you believe about that is still deeply influential.
The experience of an emotion results from the brain, heart and body acting in concert.- Dr. Rollin McCraty
Although I understood the physiology of emotion, what was missing for me was information about my own heart that I felt walled off from. In praying about it, God did what he loves to do – he took my baby-step of asking and illuminated my heart for me as only he could do.
Because I am a super visual thinker, one of my favorite verses about how God is to us is this one: You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5 When I am guided by God into something he has to show me, I always feel like his hand is on my heart. THAT God, the one who tucks me in on all sides with himSELF, HE sees my heart, knows my heart, and made my heart. When I’m out of sorts, I am welcomed to ask him about it.
Can I just say asking anything is what Jesus implored us to be doing. It’s also the best prayer habit ever if you feel like God is outside of your regular day, or that you keep leaving him home in your Bible. Why do we so often just ask ourselves and each other things, when we have been invited to the mind of God? No judgment. I’m preaching to my own heart here. But you knew that.
Far too many times when I have been confused, undecided, and stressed out to point of panic (and lip biting), it’s because I am forcing actions from a heart I am ill-equipped to examine. I can’t always interpret my heart. I’ve read it poorly a time or two. Like a foreign land without a map, my heart has been uncharted.
How do you feel about being spectacularly known by God? Safe or scared or a little of both? God is light and in him there is no darkness at all 1 John 1:5, so everything we hide even from ourselves is in plain view to him. And he is crazy about us.
So what he sees in our hearts, he loves.
What he sees, he redeems.
And what he sees, he completes.
I don’t muzzle myself anymore. Those days of spontaneous tension led me to understand things about the way God made me that I truly didn’t know until my heart, bursting out to my body, held by God, gave me words. My calling was shifting, and the signals had started. I walked through it with a lot of questions, and El Roi, the God who sees me, answered them beautifully.
There are days when I feel like what’s going on in my heart is hidden, even from me. On those days my heart tugs like a toddler on a skirt until I surrender – usually after I’ve tried everything else. Fitful and flabbergasted, I cry out to the Maker of my heart. Everything I don’t understand about her, God is privy to. He interprets me to me. All I have to do is ask.
God – Lover of My Heart – take what feels tangled inside me and hold it all together. Manage the overflow. These are changing times inside my hidden heart and just outside her gates, in my family.
I am at a loss here, Lord. I can’t see what you see. Let my heart warn me of peril just in time and send me from bitten lips to tenacious trust. I declare to my own heart that I believe you to be saving me, holding me, and that even when my heart is a war zone, you apportion the field hospital where wounds are safely dressed. Convalesce me.
The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest. Exodus 14:14
Maybe you have never heard of a God who knows you like this and is safe to be held by. I put together this little group of verses for you that help me understand what God says about uncharted hearts like ours.
I cannot see inside my heart, but I can…
❤️ learn her signals. Psalm 119:73
❤️ keep her from becoming hard. Hebrew 3:12-19
❤️ be certain that God knows her, forms her, tends her, and softens her. Ezekiel 11:19
❤️ know my heart WILL fail and God will still sustain me. Psalm 73:26
❤️ ask for a heart-cleaning of the kind that only God can maneuver, and what is broken, mangled, and filthy can be restored, reordered, and made immaculate. Psalm 51: 6, 10
…and I am so glad for that.
For more about saving your favorite passages with your YouVersion Bible app, check the Talk Back page.