What Goes In...

We all know the saying: What goes in must come out. And it's so true. But how often do we apply that to our whole lives?

I have had reason to consider this in the past, as I have examined contributing factors to my own bad behavior and struggles with sin, as well as when I have tried to think about using my time well. I am sure most of us have heard the analogy about keeping our 'tanks full'? Avoiding 'burnout'? Been warned about how you won't have anything to give if your not getting something? Maybe I have just heard talks like that a lot because I have been studying to go into ministry (and am now doing it) and so I got all kinds of warnings along these lines.

Whatever the case may be, in my past and yours, I have had lots of reasons to think about this. And its not exactly a new theme; Jesus and Paul talk about it often.

Mark 7:14-23 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said,"Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside you can defile you by going into you. Rather, it is what comes out of you that defiles you." After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked himabout this parable. "Are you so dull?" he asked."Don't you see that nothing that enters you from the outside can defile you? For it doesn't go into your heart but into your stomach, and then out of your body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: "What comes out of you is what defiles you. For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,adultery, greed,malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile you."

Of course, Jesus is making a slightly different point here. However, note the phrase "for it doesn't go into your heart but into your stomach..." What about the things which do go into our hearts? Have you ever thought about what those things are? And how deeply different activities or inputs in your life are able to penetrate your heart? How much do music, tv, movies, books, friends, sermons, lectures, etc. really get to you? And have you taken account of that in being careful what you take in? I didn't for a long time...

Luke 6:43-45 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Here, of course, is another version of the initial saying in this post, and in the title. What we are filled with will come out. Another analogy is a spilled cup.

All those questions I just asked you, I have asked myself. The answers surprised me. Reading, an activity I enjoy and do a lot, is something that doesn't penetrate very far. At least it doesn’t touch my heart not without help. I think that an unintentional side effect of the training I have received by being in school for so many years of my life has made it very easy to keep the printed word at a distance. Now, since discovering this, I know how to allow books to penetrate deeper when I choose, as well as how to stop them, which is very handy. It makes controlling what goes into my heart in this area of my life relatively easy.

Meanwhile, music is precisely the opposite. I have never been a huge music person. Don't get me wrong, I like music, it's... nice. But, there are no bands that I care enough about to know the members names. There are no singers whose lives I have looked in to. And, in general, I do not go out of my way to listen to music. I like it on while I am driving, that or a lecture, and sometimes I listen if I can't sleep. But I do not walk around 'plugged in' or go out and buy CD’s much. Despite all of that, music has a huge effect on my heart, and, more specifically, on my emotions. Listening to a song which matches my mood will intensify it; listening to one which is opposed is grating. Since learning this I have found that I can actually gradually shift how I am feeling by listening to music which, song by song, progressively moves from my current mode to where I want to be. (I.E. Last night, feeling melancholic, I did the following: "I Wish I Cared" -> Sukiyaki (4PM) -> Why Me Lord ->Puff the Magic Dragon -> God Shuffled His Feet -> What if Jesus came back like that -> What if she's an angel -> would Jesus wear a rolex -> Everything is Beautiful. In the course of those songs I went from melancholic depressed to mellow remembering to sad thoughtful to humored and finally to peaceful, at which point I turned off my MP3 Player and went to sleep). I have also learned that I need to be careful what I listen to; my inattention to music is probably precisely what makes me vulnerable.

Other forms of entertainment vary. Video-games do not hit my heart, but they are not a good use of my time. I don’t stand up from an hour long gaming session feeling relaxed and fulfilled. The only exception, I think, is playing with friends. The community and competition add an element to gaming (whether on computers, boards, or other platforms) which I enjoy thoroughly. Even there, however, I need to be careful that my competitiveness does not get the better of me and trump my desire to display the fruit of the Spirit.

TV contains some specific triggers, movies as well, but I think I have gotten pretty good at filtering certain content (mostly because I am so cynical).

The point, however, is not to ‘get good’ at eating garbage. It may be possible, but it is certainly not helpful or healthy. The point is to learn more about what is good and avoid what is bad. This is the advice Paul gives in Philippians 4:8-9
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

So, what are those good things in my life? Family and friends top the list, good reading (primarily the bible) and good music come in close behind, right at the same level as the beauty of creation. All of these end in time well spent and a heart filled with the more love.

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