Muscle Memory

Today I was reminded that often times my heart remembers what my mind has tried to forget.  Deep emotions well up I don’t understand where they come from.  Usually it takes something outside myself to understand what was/is happening: the passing of time or a conversation with a friend with whom I can be completely vulnerable with.  To help make this word become flesh for the reader I’m thinking of things like being sad for days and not realizing that it was “about this time 14 years ago that my father died,” or, “of course I’ve been contemplating my mortality because it’s July 10th and also the fifth anniversary of the day I signed a release for the ER doc at the hospital acknowledging that the procedure I was about to undergo might result in my death.”  The heart remembers what the mind tries to forget.  

In seminary the first test in Hebrew class was one that required reciting the Shema aloud (Deut. 6.4-5).  Many of us know the “heart” of the Hebrew prayer well – it’s a Trinitarian effort toward the love of God on our part – that we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might.” Many English translations of the Hebrew bible render the third aspect of our three-part loving of God incorrectly:  that we love God with our mind.  If that’s how the bible you read translates the third part of the prayer cross out the word mind and write might.   Might as with strength.  Might as in… mightily.  Or exceedingly.  Or diligently.

Why?  Well, for one, our minds play tricks on us.   We are adept at “thinking” our way out of this or that.  We can rationalize almost anything.  But loving God isn’t rational.  It’s relational.  And just for kicks, for the “thinking” crowd, there is no distinct word in biblical Hebrew that can be translated as “mind.”  No kidding.  We are commanded to love God with our hearts (leb), with our soul (nephesh) and with our might (m@ ‘od).  The best translation of the biblical Hebrew is probably this: love God with your guts. Love God with butterflies in your stomach.  Love God when it is your heart, not your mind, that remembers.  The muscle of God resides in your heart, not your mind.


Happy Monday,


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3 Responses to Muscle Memory

  1. kim Hurst says:

    Beautiful. Well timed. Thank you

  2. Rich Turner says:

    Right on, Jim. I also think of those feelings as related to J. B. Phillips’ classic Your God is Too Small and his description of “signposts” from God that show up when you didn’t know you needed them.

  3. Bruce Barrow says:

    Thanks, Jim. You led me to check my “New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version”. It reads “with all your might”. Translations have been improving.

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