No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money- Matthew 6:24
Earlier today I was thinking about the successful month I’ve had at work in July. I was thinking about the awful month I had in June and what had made the difference. We had a brutal month in June as a company and my co-workers and I had all taken a stance of negativity. Some of the guys were talking about leaving but most of us weren’t going anywhere we were just always complaining. One day I realized that all of my converstions I was having were so negative. The negativity was consuming me in such a way that there was no way others couldn’t sense it. It was even spilling over into my home life and affecting everyone at home.
I sent out an email to my co-workers encouraging them that we need to be more positive. While I got made fun of for that and my motives were questioned- I was serious. I chose to change my mindset regardless of what anyone else was going to do- either I was all in or I needed to quit. I couldn’t go around negative and doing my job half hearted because everyone else was that way. I had to change for me, my family and my company. By staying and being negative I wasn’t helping anyone. So, I changed my outlook. It wasn’t easy because others were still negative and I had to shake that off and stay positive.
The payoff was that I was able to have a great month. But, I honestly think that regardless of my success or failure in July that I would have still benefited from changing my outlook and not living with a divided heart. People are drawn to authentically positive people and people of conviction. I had chosen a stance of positivity and people responded positively. This is in spite of many personal challenges in my life- including financial, my wife’s injuries and some very serious and intense parenting issues. My life didn’t magically get better but I got off the fence and made a decision.
I started thinking about how this can apply to other areas of my life. I started thinking about the times that Karin and I have struggled in our marriage. One of us checks out emotionally, physically or verbally. I thought about when I’ve neglected my kids by being on the computer or watching too many sports while they are literally begging me to pay attention to them. I thought about when I neglect my relationship with God because I “don’t have time” to develop it but then turn around and check my facebook statuses. I would say that having a divided heart has caused a great amount of damage in my relationships and an unnecessary amount of stress and frustration that could have been easily avoided.
What do I mean by a divided heart? I don’t mean that we are conflicted between two activities but rather that when we are in a given activity we are dreaming of being somewhere else. It means that when you are in a relationship you are wishing you could be with someone else- either physically or emotionally. We are short changing the people we are around due to a dissatisfaction of a perceived right. We become increasingly negative and cannot see the positive.
So, what are the dangers of having a divided heart? The first danger is anxiety. When our hearts are divided we think about the reality that we know and live everyday vs. a non-existent reality that we think exists somewhere else or with someone else. We can feel trapped and out of control. We thnk that if we could just change the person we are with or the career we are in then we will finally achieve “success”.
The anxiety that we feel can lead to depression. This is easily exhibited through anger, self-medication and escapism. Escapism can be something as simple as reality TV, surfing the internet or a hobby to more serious issues like porn, an emotional affair or even having a secret life or habit. We deal with the anxiety that we feel about the situation or relationship by withdrawing into our negativity and darkness. We feel hopeless that our situation can change and powerless to do anything about it. We are unhappy and nit-pick those around us to make them unhappy. Our depression can often cause us to sabotage relationships so that the other person will choose to leave us and we have someone else to blame.
This can quickly turn into anger. We blame everyone else for what’s wrong. We refuse to see our role in our own unhappiness and believe that everyone else is to blame. We think “if only I had a bettet job then I would be respected” or “if I had a different spouse/ partner then I would feel connected, loved and honored”. I certainly am guilty of putting the blame of my unahppiness and misery on others! We don’t see that we need to take responsibility for our mindset and choices. When we are angry we can say and do things that can cause us to physically, emotionally and verbally abuse those around us. It is hard to subdue our anger before it spills out and we cannot control it.
Finally, the ultimate danger to a divided heart is that we could lose something or someone of great value- whether its a relationship, career or possession. In the passage at the top Jesus says that we will hate one “master” and love the other “master” or that he will be devoted to one and despise the other. I don’t know about you but if I exhibit hate towards someone they don’t stick around too long. Apathy is a form of hate and this can only be tolerated so long- professionally and personally. People can sense that you don’t want to be in the relationship or career and will sometimes show you the door. We cannot be devoted to the job we have and the job we wish we had. We cannot be fully devoted to our spouse and to someone else. We cannot live a life that is God-centered and one that is self-centered at the same time. We need to make the decision to be “all in” and no longer live with divided hearts. This is easier said than done. But, make no mistake- it must be done.
So, how do we get past this divided heart? How do we live a life of full devotion- to the ones we love and to the God we serve?
What things have you lost due to a divided heart?
What in your life are you in danger of losing now because of a divided heart?