Many years ago I was watching the Olympics and for some reason had gotten interested in the Pole Vaulting contest. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t remember the man’s name who won and received the gold medal. He was from the United States and the thing that I never forgot was when a journalist was interviewing him. He had broken a world record at the time and the man asked him how he did it, which I thought at the time was a rather naive question. But the answer was brilliant and returns to my thoughts often. He looked at the reporter and said, very earnestly, “I just throw my heart over the bar first and the rest of me seems to follow naturally.”
I quickly grabbed a pen and wrote down the answer he had given and then put it in places where I would see it often. He was still a young man at the point when he made the statement but wherever the thought may have originated, whether with a parent, a coach or out of his own mind, he laid out a principle that day that is worth thinking about in all kinds of situations.
Let’s face it, we see people every day on jobs, in family life and in church or spiritual life who seem to be just muddling their way through it. They do the things that they have to do, but it is so obvious their heart isn’t in it that they might as well be wearing a sign. I understand why employers often keep people who don’t enjoy the job and who seem to walk through each day with their mind and heart somewhere else or even worse when it just seems to be missing in action. So often they just don’t know where to find anyone that will be different. They have resigned themselves to paying workers who don’t care and are interested in learning more but will walk through the motions and get the job done.
You see the same thing with married couples and parents. I am excited with I see a couple who are married and it is obvious they have thrown their hearts into it and the rest has followed easily. They are devoted to each other, love being with each other, compliment each other and can’t wait for the end of the day to come so they can be together again. I just wish this kind of devotion and love in marriage was contagious. It almost seems that someone came up with a vaccine to keep it from spreading. Seeing the other kind of marriage where they are together, sort of, but seem to be as excited about being together as I would be about watching a wrestling match (by the way I would walk a mile to keep from having to be where one was being seen). You wonder if they ever had their heart in it or was it just some arrangement or pretense from the beginning. If you want to get the life either back into your marriage or there for the first time, throw your heart into it and it will show to everyone around, especially your mate. I suspect if you ever put your heart into it, you may be shocked to find they are ready to throw theirs in as well.
Sadly, you see the same thing at church, in service and devotion to God. So many want to be religious so they come to church at least some of the time, but far too often their heart has been left somewhere else or is just missing altogether. Such churches and individuals may look good and have all the appearances of life. Read Revelation 3 in the story of Laodicea as one of the churches Jesus wrote to. They looked at themselves and declared “We are rich, have plenty of goods and don’t need a thing.” Jesus looked at them and said, “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” He called them “Lukewarm, and neither cold or hot.” He said, I’d rather you be cold or hot but because you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth. What was wrong with this church that thought they were so good but was so far from what God wanted. They needed to put on white clothes to hide their nakedness, to put on eye salve from God to be able to see and to buy gold from him that had been tried in the fire. But the real answer came when he pictured himself standing at the door and knocking, trying to get in, but being kept on the outside.
Form, ritual, playing the game, going through the motions are all part of life. But, if your heart isn’t in it, you aren’t in it. That is true whether it’s your job, your marriage, you as a parent or your Christianity.
How can I know if my heart is really in it? First, I think most of us already know, it’s just a matter of admitting it and deciding to change. When Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” he left no doubt that his heart was totally in it. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul was talking to the church in Corinth about giving to help the poor Christians over in Jerusalem. In doing so he told of the churches of Macedonia who were in deep poverty, but who had sent a very liberal gift to help with the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. The words Paul uses demonstrate the ones doing the giving were in far worse shape financially than the ones they were giving to help. Why would they do that? Paul said they begged him to accept their gift and gave far more than they were actually able to give. But why would they do such a thing? His answer lies at the heart of this whole article. “Because they had first given themselves to the Lord.” When my heart is in anything, my money, interest, energy, and commitment follow. When my heart isn’t in it, I can find every excuse in the world not to give, not to share, not to be there for those who need me and just go on living a shell game wondering why nothing seems to matter much any more.