Can the Heart be Disciplined?

Emily Dickinson once wrote,

When the Best is gone, I know that other things are not of consequence, The Heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care…

I’ve toiled and fretted much this year over my lack of discipline; yet, after six months of striving, discipline remains just beyond my reach. This year has actually felt more like an exercise in meaningless striving than discipline. I’ve grown weary. I’ve flirted dangerously close with giving up and giving in. Instead, I determine to redirect my course.

I recently heard someone say, “I’ve seen the enemy, and the enemy is me.”  I find this to be true in my own circumstances. I let my heart make too many of the decisions around here.  The heart doesn’t care about consequence. It wants what it wants, and left to rule outside of God’s authority, it will destroy me.

I was reminded today that our hearts can, and will, lie to us.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

My heart doesn’t and never did want discipline. My heart wants to sin without regard for consequence. In fact, the natural heart is an excellent liar, and to say that I’ve been lying to myself is an understatement. I’ve been listening to the unbridled, sinful desires of my own fallen heart.

Discipline is about control and commitment. Discipline is achieved through habits and repetition. Discipline requires concentration and ignoring distractions. I can pursue all of these things and beat my body into submission. But to what end?

Has my heart changed?  Am I broken over the sin that leads to my being undisciplined? Have I worked toward starving the desires of the flesh (spiritually speaking)?

All of this striving is chasing after the wind. Perhaps the heart cannot be disciplined, since it is evil and beyond cure. In my personal experiences, it does not seem so.

And then the Lord whispers:

Finally you are starting to understand.

It is the pursuit of holiness that will change your heart.

Pursue holiness and discipline will follow.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Psalm 51:10-12

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what You want from me

So, take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Alece says:

    I love your heart in this, AL!

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Thank you for inspiring me Alece!

  2. Angie says:


  3. Angie says:

    The past couple of years for me have been very enlightening. It seems like it has been a sudden realization that throughout much of my life I have allowed my ambition to define me. It is a very uncomfortable and frightening realization. Your words have helped me to bridge where I have been with where I need to be. Thank you!

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Angie — thank you for your comments, I am encouraged by them and thank you for sharing a little of your journey with me!

  4. Jay Watson says:

    If I might add… I’m rolling around in the concept… that God loves me. It isn’t my spiritual gifts, or efforts in ministry that please God. In the same way my failure does not cause Him to love me less. God loves me. Psalm 37 has been somewhat of a “straightening out” passage for me. God loves me. As I delight in His love, as I trust in all that He is… His love will help me to pursue that holiness you were mentioning. The other things Psalm 37 hits me square in the face over… Dwelling, and Being Still before God.

    I’m working on simply attempting to believe that God loves me. I want to dwell on that. Its helping me to get refocused. We’ve both been doing ministry for about the same amount of time, and its a terrible fact, that ministry can become unfortunately performance related. I’m working on getting back to the song I sing with my kids at night. Jesus Loves me this I know.

    His kingdom, His greatness, His glory. and He loves us.

    Sorry to make my comment so long: Your post hit me right where I’ve been for the last few months as well.

    Love you and your fam!

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Thank you Jay for the great insight! This is good to be reminded of because it is easy to tangle up God’s love for us in these “acts of godliness” thank you for the added focus and for sharing this good word.

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