Springs of Water

I have this idea that we are stewards of our desire.  If God is moving in our hearts through desire…if he is both restoring our desires and putting His dreams inside of us…then we ought to take our longings very seriously.  This is a place were God lives and moves, breathes and speaks.  These are the things which will one day define us

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 KJV

You can tell it’s the King James, because it says “thy”.  I used that translation this time because I like that it says “out of it are the issues of life.”  My ESV translates it: from it flow the springs of life.  Both are important.

People quote this verse all the time.

I’m never quite sure how to take it when people tell me to “guard my heart.”

Usually people say “guard” in a certain amount of fear or warning.  I’m thinking I might need little heart shaped armor or something.

Usually people say “heart” in the context of romantic attraction.  

We’ll talk about “guard” later, but let’s throw the whole valentine heart thing out the window from the start.  Romance is only a small portion of what goes on in our hearts.  The Hebrew view, which is categorically Eastern, is that the heart is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions.  It is what we sometimes call the soul.  It is what you think, what you believe, how you feel, and what you decide.  These are truly the issues of life.

Issues of life.  Springs of water.  Another meaning of this word would be “borders.”  It makes me think of a landscape, where the water ways have carved out the topography.  Hills and valleys, canyons, trees and forests, watering holes and gathering places for people and animals, boundaries and borders for states and nations, springs of water etch all of these things into the land, define them before we even consider where we will live, where we will farm, and where we will fight.

In the same way, springs of water are flowing around in your heart, determining the landscape of your life.  Before you even go to make a decision, the springs that flow through your heart have already determined what the options will be.  If you want to truly live a free life, you need to be aware of them, aware of the current and how that impacts your decisions.  You need to steward these streams, which I believe are the desires mentioned in Psalm 37:4.

So what does it mean to keep your heart diligently, or as I am so often encouraged to do, guard your heart?

Keep: to guard, in a good sense (to protect, maintain, obey, etc.) or a bad one (to conceal, etc.):–besieged, hidden thing, keep, monument, observe, preserve, subtil, watcher.

Don’t be alarmed by that funny word “subtil” in there.  I’ll get to that one.  Let’s start with “to guard, in a good sense or a bad one.”  Since this is our heart we are talking about, our mind, will, and emotions, please note that our hearts can be either protected and maintained, or they can be locked away and hidden.  One is good, the other is not.  That is where I came to the term “steward.”  Like the springs of water, it gives me the sense that these things moving through our hearts are not things we can necessarily control.  I mean…have you ever tried to change the direction of a river’s flow?  Hercules is the only character I know who can do that, although I’m sure one of my sciency friends will come along and tell me otherwise.  More likely, we can only dam the flow of the river.  This creates stagnant water, which is no longer living.  Damming the water to create a lake might be useful in some situations, but as a general rule you want to keep the water flowing.

In the vein of stewardship, the next two definitions that stand out to me are “observe” and “preserve.”  Try that out for a moment in the sentence “Observe your heart with diligence.”  This feels like something I can do.  This does not feel like fear.  This feels like stewardship.

I have known people who steward waterways.  They know the river like the back of their hand, and above all they know that the river is constantly changing.  Animals come and go.  A sand bar that was there yesterday may be gone tomorrow.  A single rock moved can change the entire direction and flow of the river.

As a good steward, I am to notice what is going on in my heart…but not just the big stuff.  Subtil is an archaic version of the word subtle.  The currents in our hearts are filled with nuance, and it is important to monitor and maintain the subtleties in our hearts.  Do I want to do this good thing because of a good desire in my heart, or because of a need for self aggrandizement?  Is this longing for something I cannot have an indication of a deeper longing which God would like to restore?  Even more subtly, what is my motive in this moment and how can I adapt my choices to bring my motives into alignment with God?

How do I steward living water?  How do I steward my heart?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Aug 27, 2017 @ 21:26:25

    As a good steward you have opened nuances of interpretation of a puzzling passage. Translation in the broad sense is like discerning a precise recipe by tasting a complex dish in an unfamiliar ethnic restaurant. Thank you.


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