GUARDING MY HEART
After my first year of college, I accepted a summer job selling a family Bible study
program and Bible encyclopedia. I was seventeen years old, and on my own away
from home for the first time.
Selling door-to-door eighty hours a week, I discovered I was never alone but
always lonely. I had to talk so much that for the first couple of weeks, I lost my
voice by the end of the day. Natural community suspicion of a stranger at the door
hardened to outright hostility because of articles in the local newspapers about
door-to-door sales-people offering phoney products and committing burglaries.
Even the police checked up on me from time to time. On the other hand, being tall, clean cut, and on the street all day, local criminals
took me for undercover law enforcement and I was nearly beaten up several
In addition to the exhaustion, loneliness, and rejection, I wasnít making any money
to pay for school in the fall. However, I knew I was growing spiritually. I had
accepted Christ the year before, and I knew my only hope of making it through
was to stay close to God every day and to manage my inner life moment by
moment. I decided that after learning all I could from anything that did not go well,
I would not dwell on it, ďforgetting what lies behindĒ (Philippians 3:24 NASB).
Neither would I worry about anything future (Matthew 6:34). That allowed me to
put all my focus and energy into the present moment in order to make the very
most of it. I could then carefully control my every thought, making sure that it was
scriptural, that my attitudes were right, and that my emotions were under firm
When God seemed far away, I would think over Psalm 139. When I felt I couldnít
keep going, I would remember Philippians 4:13. When tempted toward self-pity, I
would follow Paulís example during one of his miserable times in prison: he rejoiced
in what was good, focused on others, and prayed for them (Philippians 1:4, 18).
By guarding my heart moment by moment, I overcame discouragement and
Meanwhile, I kept myself encouraged by remembering that I was learning a great
deal about people and communication, both verbal and non-verbal. I was getting
better at understanding their needs, hurts, and coping strategies and was learning
more about how to convince and motivate people. I knew those skills would help
me a great deal in ministry; and so they have.
I did convince a number of families to buy and use the family Bible study plan, but I
have little doubt that, by far, the greatest benefit of that summer was how it
shaped me. I didnít make a profit, but God provided for school. The mental and
spiritual discipline of guarding my heart enabled me later to overcome many
spiritual challenges and to finish three mastersí degrees and a doctorate.
Today I am still acutely aware of my inner lifeónot introspective or self-focusedójust careful to let Godís word and His Spirit control my thoughts,
attitudes, and emotions.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Taken from College Faith: 150 Christian Leaders and Educators Share Faith Stories From Their College
Days. Editor: Alan Knott. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press) © 2002.
Courtesy of Faith and Reason Forum