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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Where My Heart Goes Astray

Without a doubt, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is one of my favorite hymns. With its exquisite melody and all-too-relatable lyrics, it is difficult not to love. By the time we arrive at the last verse, I have learned just how prone to wander I truly am. While singing it in a Sunday worship service, I find myself desperately singing the final verse: “Here’s my heart, Lord. I’m done with it. Take and seal it, for I don’t want to be bothered with its foolishness any longer. Seal it for thy courts above so I no longer have to worry about it.” Yet as I step out of the Sunday service into a new week, I find the words of James K. A. Smith just as true: "You can’t just think your way to new hungers….Such rehabituation [is] going to require a whole new set of practices….unlearning those habits would require counterformative practices, different rhythms and routines that would retrain my hunger. My hungers would have to be retrained so that I would want to eat differently….New knowledge and information might help me see the power of bad habits, but that in itself is not sufficient to undo them. I can’t 'know' my way to new habits." [1]

During my college years, I began to notice a pattern amongst the thoughts I would experience in a given day: “You aren’t a good enough composer for this subject. You aren’t a good enough pianist for this piece. You aren’t a good enough student for this class. You aren’t a good enough writer for this paper. You aren’t a very good friend or roommate or Christian. You aren’t a good enough teacher for this Sunday School class.” Once I began to hear these thoughts, I realized the assumptions underneath of them that drove so many of my actions. I fundamentally believe that something about me is by nature defective and it is my job to fix it. That is why I am so driven, giving myself extra musical exercises or books to read or hear criticisms in others when there are none. I try to fix myself and find that work, studies, people, and perfection have all become idols. Even my lifelong wandering through the church was in many ways, though not all, an attempt for me to “get it right” and figure out how to be a “good enough” Christian myself.

It is on that point even my motivations for ministry go awry at times. I lead worship so that I might worship better. I teach so that I might study the Scriptures more urgently. I serve in homeless ministry so that Jesus might count me one of the sheep on his right hand. While these are not my only motivations for doing ministry by any means, nor are they always present, on my worst days, it is in these areas that ministry goes awry.

It has also led me to idolize relationships, whether they be romantic, familial, or friendships. I assume that if I cannot fix myself, maybe someone else in my life can. Too often, I have unconsciously asked my friends to bear a weight they were not made to bear, to be my saviors.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ directly confronts me on a regular basis, especially during the Sunday morning liturgy. It says: “Yes, you are in fact broken and defective, not because you don’t do enough or don’t always have the skills to measure up to the task, but rather because you find your identity in what you do rather than in me, your Creator who loves you. You cannot fix yourself. That is my job. Your friends are not your saviors; I am. Come to me with your disordered loves and your out of tune motivations. In me, you can find rest from your constant work. You can worship because you love me and my Word can speak to you of my love for you in return. You can serve because I served you and you wish to show my love to others. I did not die and rise again to leave you in your workaholism, but to give you new life. So trust me with the ways you don’t feel good enough. I can handle them and can continue to transform you into more of my own image.”

[1] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love, p. 61.

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