“Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
There are many lessons that we need to learn from the COVID-19 virus. Perhaps the most important is how rapidly we can transmit infections to one another and throughout the world. The fear of infections have caused lock-downs of countries all over the world. But more insidious and dangerous is the infection and corruption of our souls through the feeding of our minds with shows like the Squid Game.
The Squid Game has become the biggest series in Netflix history for its “shocking violence” and stories of the evil inherent in the human heart. It strikes a chord in many as it reveals the potential for evil in everyone of us. The most disturbing theme is about a “society being ruled by a sick occult elite that takes pleasure in dividing, controlling, dehumanizing, infantilizing, and outright abusing the masses.” The random executions of those who are trapped by poverty in the context of a childhood game hardens our heart and turns it into a path or stony ground where the seed of God’s love cannot take root. The garden of our thoughts reflects the spiritual condition of our spiritual heart. For the well being of our society, we need to guard our hearts as the loss of spiritual values was the downfall of past civilizations. Evil actions flow from stony hearts:
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” Matthew 15:16-20 NLT
The best way to guard our hearts is to watch our thoughts. When the garden of our hearts are filled with the weeds of sinful desires, ulterior motives and hidden agendas, these will choke up the fruits of love, joy and peace. Negative patterns of thinking lead us to complain, to criticize, to compare, to compete and to covet. It is not possible for compassion to thrive in such a society.
One way to watch our thoughts is to be still and to practice silence. This is a simple exercise but one that is contrary to our sinful human nature. The story of Adam and Eve begins with the wonder and beauty of walking in the garden of paradise with God. But Adam and Eve hid from God when their eyes were opened to the harsh reality of sin and evil. The broken relationship between human beings and God is the root cause of all the suffering in the world. We are spiritually dead and are unable to walk with God.
Jesus came to show us the way back to God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he told Peter to keep watch and pray so that he will not give in to temptation. But he knew that our spirit is willing and the body is weak (Matthew 26:40-41, NLT). Jesus demonstrated how difficult and painful it is to pray, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” He had the power to call upon angels to rescue him but he chose the way of the cross:
“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8 NLT
To follow Christ to the cross we can learn to cultivate silence. Silence is the doorway to the mind of Christ. It is not a ritual to empty our minds or to solicit spiritual experiences. Silence is to break the train of thoughts that drives us to egoistic actions and negative feelings. We need the practice of silence to become aware of our thinking mind that keeps us from listening to the messages from God that are communicated through silence. It is in silence that we express our commitment to wait on God. And as we wait on God, we create a healing space to watch our thoughts with compassion and without judgment. We become aware of the weeds in our hearts without guilt or fear, trusting that our Lord will remove them in His time. We will have weeds even when our heart is good soil:
“Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30 NLT
When we are in Christ, we do not have to worry about the weeds in the garden of our hearts. Our responsibility is to abide in Christ as a branch of the vine. The dead branches in our spiritual lives will be cut away and the leafy branches will be pruned:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2 NLT
To abide in Christ is to wait on the Lord and to watch our thoughts with Him. We are to pray with all kinds of prayer and be watchful (Ephesians 6:18, NIRV). Michelle Knight, a writer of an Upper Room devotional, shared her experience of the deep language of prayer – “God speaks in silence, emotion, thought, longing, praise, lament, joy, gratitude.”
Silence is to pray with an alert mind and thankful heart (Colossians 4:2). It is walking with the Lord in humility. It is through and in silence that we enter the cloud of unknowing where God dwells. The practice of silence is simply the expression of our spiritual hunger and thirst for our Divine Lover. We have the wonderful promise, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Silence is our response to our Shepherd of Love looking for us. And when our Heavenly Father calls, how can we not respond?
“I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”