By Lynn Roush
Lynn Roush, MA, PLPC started a Counseling Ministry at The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri 14 years ago, and has enjoyed providing counseling and teaching classes on marriage and parenting ever since. As a Christian counselor, Lynn strives to integrate biblical wisdom on human nature with sound psychological research on human development to help people grow. Lynn enjoys CrossFit, watching her 3 kids play sports, and sitting on porch swings with her husband.
Professional therapy will probably not be on an episode of “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe, but after 14 years of providing counseling, I can attest that Soul Care can be a messy business. In fact, Goethe is credited with humorously asking, “What is the difference between a coal miner and a therapist? A therapist goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes out dirtier.” This analogy is helpful because it gives us a visual of the hidden heart, it is like a dark cave awaiting exploration, but the unknown nature of it can be daunting.
The Terrain of the Heart is Hazardous
The hidden heart represents the repository of collected beliefs, desires and feelings that we may not be consciously aware of. It represents the core of our person, the development of our personality and the nexus of our thoughts, emotional reactions, and choices. The hidden heart contains the truth about what we really believe if we were honest with ourselves. We know that our hearts are depraved and prone to selfishness, pride and a multitude of moral failures.
Part of the therapeutic process involves uncovering the hidden heart and discerning the difference between what people believe they should feel, think or do, and identifying what people actually feel, think and do. This kind of dissonance is universal to the human experience. Everyone’s story contains particular scenes of heartache and loss, shame and regret, so naturally we resist acknowledging what has been buried at the bottom of our souls. It takes courage to consciously lean into self-awareness when our natural defense mechanisms are telling us to run the other direction.
Navigating Deep Waters
One significant reason we may resist engaging with our story is: we have been profoundly and primarily shaped by those persons with whom we have had “face to face” contact during key emotional, mental, and psychological stages of growth and development. It simply cannot be overstated. The impact early relational experiences have on our psychosocial and emotional development is critical, but talking about parents or childhood experiences can be very difficult and can feel like opening up a can of worms that we’d rather leave sealed shut.
Once we realize that our earliest memories and emotional experiences do not go away no matter how fiercely we resist, ignore or avoid them, we may begin to see the benefit of making sense of these initial relational experiences. Neurobiological researcher Donald Hebb famously coined the axiom that: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Like it or not, painful moments throughout our development will remain a part of our internal world, and often drive our thoughts, feelings and decisions without our conscious awareness.
An Invitation to Know Ourselves
The hidden heart is already fully known by God because He is all knowing, and He searches the thoughts, motives, intentions and desires of every heart. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
This may produce trepidation or fear that God is so intimately aware of our hidden heart. There’s some ugly stuff in there! But a thorough reading of Scripture conveys that God’s all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present role in our lives frees us up to be honest with ourselves and with Him from whom we cannot hide. Ultimately, God desires for us to engage deeply with our hidden hearts because He desires that we have “truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden parts He will make me know wisdom” Psalm 51:6.
Whether we choose to examine our hidden heart more deeply through a formal process of therapy or through a trusted friend or mentor, we can expect the process to be both difficult and rewarding. When the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way,” we see a humble and teachable person who desires truth and is depending on the Spirit to illuminate his hidden heart. Will it be painful? Messy? Uncomfortable? Yes. But it will also yield peace, wisdom, repentance, discernment and life-changing growth.
I encourage you to not be afraid of what’s in your hidden heart, God already knows and He is there waiting to meet you.