by The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher Priest-in-charge Trinity Church, Russellville

When I grew up school was the place to learn the three R's: reading, writing, and arithmetic. We put our minds to work learning words, writing about our summer vacation, memorizing how to add, subtract, multiply numbers, and even figure out algebra with "x's." This was an exercise for our minds and also an opportunity in school to learn social skills and the rules of sports. All was quite good. And in almost everything we do we have to use our minds in order to function in this life.

But there is another kind of learning that we might call listening to the heart. What are our emotions telling us without words? How do we feel? In fact, some of the most important aspects of being alive dwell in our emotions and intuitions. Arithmetic isn't directly associated with love. Do we hope by reading about it? Perhaps, but at some point hope must become a part of our own experience not just a thought waving its welcome. Faith also is a learning skill that goes beyond disciplines of the mind. We can't figure out all the details of our faith with words and doctrines, not even by proof-texting the Bible. The validity of our faith must be felt symbolically in the heart and expressed through the heart -- that is, with love and compassion. The heart keeps us alive physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

There may be times when your mind tells you what is right and wrong and how to live life in detail. You may be faithful to this regime. But there are occasions when the mind and the regime must give way to the heart. An adult son may have gotten into great difficulties from faults of his own doing. But is it sufficient to simply say, "He was wrong. He deserves what he got." Or does the heart need to speak and see the son without condemnation but with love and a chance for forgiveness and new life? The parable of the Prodigal Son is a reminder of what Jesus taught. (Luke 15:11-32) The Father welcomed the son and forgave him. The older brother, however, was stuck in his mind and didn't listen to the heartbeat of love.

If you find yourself getting stuck in your mind, take time to listen to your heart. Don't let an angry rebuttal to something you consider wrong turn you into a sour and mean-spirited person. One can get the principles right but act on them without love and compassion. Listen to both your head and your heart, but don't sacrifice love for the sake of being right. As a friend of mine used to say, "There are times when we must rise above principle."