Divided: When the Head and Heart Don't Agree

Divided: When the Head and Heart Don't Agree

by Bill Delvaux, Refraction
Divided: When the Head and Heart Don't Agree

Divided: When the Head and Heart Don't Agree

by Bill Delvaux, Refraction



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The longest distance in the universe is between the head and heart. For Christ-followers, it is the chasm between what we say we believe in our minds and what we truly believe in our hearts: a split between our statements about God and our experience of Him. This divide is everywhere around us, causing untold devastation. It is found in the double lives of believers and in the hypocrisy of church leaders, but mainly we see it in ourselves. It is the default position of every human heart.


In Divided: When the Head and Heart DonÆt Agree, Bill Delvaux exposes this divide and offers strategies to tackle it. The actual journey to cross the divide is sketched out, an epic journey that will take us into our deepest fear and shame and on into the wonder of GodÆs presence. For becoming undivided is not just another task. ItÆs the pathway into the very heart of the Father.

Features include:


  • Strategies for closing the divide between head and heart
  • Specific prayers for each stage of the spiritual journey
  • Thought-provoking questions for spiritual conversation or reflection

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780529121288
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Series: Refraction
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: eBook
Pages: 224
File size: 730 KB

About the Author

Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and TrinityEvangelical Divinity School and has served as a pastor and a high school Bibleteacher. Presently, he leads Landmark Journey Ministries as a retreat speakerand small group coach. Bill and his wife have two grown daughters and reside inFranklin, TN.

Read an Excerpt


When the Head and Heart Don't Agree

By Bill Delvaux

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Bill Delvaux
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-529-12128-8



For there are two distinct sorts of ideas: those that proceed from the head and those that emanate from the heart.

—Alexandre Dumas

At twelve years old, I was a generally carefree boy. But as I entered an all-boys school in the seventh grade, insecurity began to edge in on me. I still enjoyed my studies, and the teachers all seemed to be pleased with me, but like most boys that age, I longed to be liked and affirmed by my classmates. The worst thing that could ever happen would be to do something to expose myself to scorn. I quickly learned to avoid anything that would trigger such a response. I saw what happened to boys who were mocked. It wasn't pretty. Yet, despite all of my best-laid plans, what I dreaded became reality.

It happened during the doldrums of that winter when the teacher suddenly announced that we would be having a basketball tournament between the three seventh-grade homerooms. It was supposed to be a welcome diversion to break up the grayness and chill of the season. She then read off a list of names that had been picked to represent our homeroom as a team. I snapped to attention when I heard my name called, almost in disbelief. Why would they pick me? I had never played basketball on the school's team or been coached in the sport. Sure, I had shot the ball a few times at the goal in our driveway, but beyond that, I didn't even know the rules. Being a compliant boy, however, I didn't resist or object. I just accepted it as inevitable.

I clearly remember walking to the gym feeling like a lamb going to the slaughter. I knew deep down that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I wanted to show everyone that I could play the game, it wasn't going to go well. I was trapped, sensing something ominous approaching, with no way to stop it. I entered the gym feeling as if thousands of eyes were watching me, assessing me, judging me. After a few opening announcements, the tournament began. The ominous was now bearing down on me. Soon into the game, the dreaded moment arrived: I got called out on the court.

I remember hustling my way up and down the gym floor, trying to mimic what other boys were doing. Yet instead of going after the ball, I was terrified of it. I didn't even know how to dribble, much less shoot accurately. To attempt either of these maneuvers would expose me to failure before the eyes of every seventh grader. I was sure the ridicule would then soon follow. So whenever the ball came to me, I would hand it off as quickly as possible to someone who seemed to know what he was doing. But even with that maneuver, I still felt useless and inept, unable to do something that seemed to be expected of every boy that age. Worst of all, I felt stripped naked in front of everyone. My secret was out. I left the game in shock, with my soul hemorrhaging and no way to stop the bleed.

For whatever reason, the sense of shame that day felt so searing, so defining, that I was never the same carefree person again. That boy died on the basketball court that day. Life now became precarious and unpredictable. Something like this could easily happen again. I became watchful, wary, self-protective. A deep shift occurred inside, locking me into a pattern, forcing me to submit to a nameless, voiceless compulsion. What I now offered to those around me was always a scripted performance. I avoided anything that smelled of risk. And the fact that the compulsion was nameless and voiceless only gave it more power. I had no idea what it was.

Years later, at the instigation of a friend and counselor, I pulled up the basketball story I had buried for so long, finally putting words to the event. Along with the story came something else unexpected. It was the nameless, voiceless thing, now finding its voice. This is what I heard: I will never do anything to make me feel this way again. I will never expose myself like this. I will never, ever fail in front of others. It was an oath to which I had pledged my heart with an obsessive devotion. This was the opening of a divide in me, a rip in the fabric of my being that would only widen and deepen in the coming years. Ironically, my attempts at protecting myself from further failure only made me more vulnerable to other unspoken vows, more voiceless commitments.

A couple of years later, the tenderness and affection of a certain girl seized me. I felt safe around her and free to fling away the masks. I was experiencing the euphoria of truly connecting to someone, of being in love for the first time. But she was dating someone else at the time, an accomplished athlete and the quarterback of a high school football team. Following the love I felt and continuing to pursue her now meant risking rejection by her or conflict with her boyfriend. Something inside me collapsed. I knew I could never compete with him. Besides, I was too committed to self-protection for that. So one day, without explanation, I just walked away from her, making another unspoken promise to myself: If loving feels like this, I will never love again. The divide had cut into me deeper.

During that same time, another event crystallized a third commitment. I had never excelled in athletics. After the basketball disaster, the possibility of failure was such a living terror that I never seriously considered most sports. But track was different. During the eighth grade, I discovered that I was fast. In fact, I became one of the fastest sprinters on the team, running the 400-meter open and the sprint relays. But as I returned to track my freshman year, I noticed that two of my former teammates were starting to keep up with me on the 400. And by my sophomore year, they began to pass me. No matter how hard I tried to stay up with them, they always managed to pull away halfway into the run. I felt deflated and ashamed. I was failing in front of others again, something intolerable to me. So during the middle of the season that year, I lied and told the coach I was tired of track and wanted to quit. Despite his protests that day, I walked away again.

I thought I would now be free of more potential failure, keeping my first vow. But I was deceived. The fear of failure only ramped up, as the divide split me deeper still, for now I had swallowed a lie that would relentlessly coerce and shame me: "If I can't be a successful athlete, I can never be a man." That one sentence drove my compulsive idealization of sports for years, long into my coaching career.


I have told these three stories many times to large and small audiences, for they form the foundational structures I lived out of, dividing me from my truest self, dividing me even from God Himself. But I will never forget the time I recounted these stories to a large class of adults at the church I was attending. After my time of storytelling, I asked them to put words to some of their own voiceless beliefs and commitments. I remember an awkward silence; I knew we were entering risky waters. One man finally spoke up, and it was the last thing I expected to hear: "If I speak up, I'll look like an idiot." Ironically, he was admitting the fear and hesitation that everyone was wrestling with. His bold move opened the way for others to follow.

A woman then raised her hand and admitted, "If I'm good, nothing bad will happen." Another one offered this: "No one really cares what I say anyway." Another woman submitted this response: "If I stay disconnected, then I won't have to deal with people who hurt me." A man then recounted a recent attempt to repair something that his wife needed fixing in the house. As he admitted his shame over the failure to get the job done, he spoke this one: "I'm not man enough to figure this out." One woman, who seemed so thoughtful with her children, caught me off guard when she stated, "I'm responsible for all the pain and failure in my children." Many others then began to pour out their own hidden convictions: "If God really loved me, this wouldn't be happening to me." "If I were successful, this wouldn't be happening to me." "Why try? Nothing will change anyway." "Whatever happens, it's always my fault."

As each statement came, I wrote out the growing list for everyone to see. Then, when the hands had all been called on, I stepped back, and we all looked at the list. It was a moment of quiet wonder, approaching something almost holy, as we saw our secret convictions out on public display. Something important was happening, something groundbreaking. I could sense it.

I then put up a second list, this one consisting of basic truths from the New Testament. I formatted them like the previous list, using the first-person pronoun I: "I can never be separated from God's love. I will never be forsaken or abandoned by God. I cannot be condemned in Christ. I have the righteousness of Jesus. I have every spiritual blessing in Christ. I am a delight to my Father in heaven. I am forgiven and washed clean." Then I simply asked the class, "What do these two lists have to do with each other?"

I will never forget the first answer given. It was one word: "Nothing."

It's important to note that my class that day consisted of believers well tutored in the Bible. Most of them had attended church for years, having heard hundreds of sermons and countless Bible lessons. Some were even church leaders and could give good answers to theological questions. After some initial discussion, one brave man finally admitted his growing disgust: "This is pathetic. Is this the best we can do after all the teaching and preaching we've received?"

I had hit something raw and jarring. I had hit a divide inside of everyone else.


The divided life is everywhere around us. We see it in the way parents raise their children and in the way husbands treat their wives. We see it in the way leaders lead and in the way followers follow. We see it in the way managers handle their subordinates, the way teachers handle their classes, the way friends handle their friendships. We see it in conflicts and misunderstandings, jealousies and cynicisms, pretenses and power struggles. But the clearest place we see it is in ourselves.

What exactly is this divide? It's the gulf between the human head and the human heart. It's the split between what we say we believe in our minds and what we really believe in our hearts. It's the chasm between our knowledge about God and our experience of Him. It's the gap that was exposed in that class I mentioned earlier, exposed perhaps for the first time for many. That's because the divide largely remains hidden, laced with the shame and fear that give the divide its terrible power and sway.

But there is another reason why this divide seems so pervasive. If it truly is this destructive, this crippling, we should all take notice and actively strive against it. But that's not what happens. The divide remains so gaping because we're used to it. We accept it as inevitable. It's just the way things are.

This condition sounds a lot like the sci-fi scenario portrayed in the film The Matrix. Here humanity lives in a computer-generated dream world run by artificial intelligence to keep humankind enslaved. Everyone is so used to the holographic fabrication presented to them that no one bothers to ask if it's real. No one cares to ask if there is something more. Everyone in the Matrix goes along with life, despite it being all lies, manipulation, and bondage. Similarly, we are often so busy surviving and getting on with life as it's presented to us that we never stop to ask, "What is this divide? Why is it there? What would life be like without it?"

But the issue is much broader than what was surfaced that day in my class. It's not just a struggle among churchgoers. It's a part of the universal human condition, a conflicted life of competing passions and interests, of warring forces and pulls. We see this clearly reflected in the stories we hear and the movies we watch. So many of them chronicle an internal conflict in the main character, one that drives the plot along to some kind of crisis.

Anna Karenina, Tolstoy's classic novel, is the story of a Russian woman in a sterile marriage who comes alive while having an affair with a young, handsome military man. She is caught between what is socially expected of her in nineteenth-century Russian society and a terrible ache in her heart to feel loved by a man. The split widens and tears her in two until the only choice left is suicide. The classic film Dead Poets Society also portrays well the divide. Here we find the brilliant and influential teacher Mr. Keating inviting young men in his class to live out of their hearts, to seize the day. One student tries to do so, embracing his longing to be an actor, only to slam up against his father, who insists on him pursuing a real career of medicine and giving up the nonsense of the theater. This story also ends in a tragic suicide.

The animated film Beauty and the Beast opens by introducing Belle, a charming young woman caught between life in a small French town and the longings in her heart for adventure and love. Everyone thinks she's eccentric, that she should just accept her lot, yet she longs for more than this provincial life. She refuses to cater to those expectations, yet by doing so and by choosing to love the Beast, she risks her own life and the life of her father. In a similar vein, It's a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey, a young man who longs to live a life of adventure and break free of the confines of small-town Bedford Falls. He wants to see the world and do great things. Yet at every turn, his dream to escape is thwarted until he finds himself facing bankruptcy and ruin.

The divide is demonstrated from a slightly different angle in the action film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indiana has been chasing after the Holy Grail, the supposed cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. He wants it only for the fame and fortune it offers. But when a Nazi general also chasing the Grail shoots his father, he now has to retrieve it, not as an archeological treasure but as a cup that could offer healing to his dying father. In a poignant line, the general exhorts Indiana, "It's time to ask yourself what you really believe." Indiana has to face the divide between what he may mentally assent to about the cup and what he truly places his faith in.

That tension comes to a dramatic, visual climax when he reaches a chasm that must be crossed to reach the Grail, a seemingly bottomless canyon with no bridge. It's a leap of faith. He has to trust his life to the explicit instructions his father procured to retrieve the Grail, that only a leap here would prove a man's worthiness to gain it. In this moment of terror, he decides to trust and steps out into the void, only to have his foot unexpectedly find solid ground. It's a bridge he couldn't see as long as he stood at the edge; only by his stepping out did it become visible. Indiana crossed the chasm by doing something counterintuitive. He couldn't bully his way through this in his usual manner—he had to trust. We will return to this important point later in the book.

This is but a smattering of examples of how internal conflict operates in the tales we know and love. But these stories are more than just stories. They mirror our lives, our struggles, our conflicts. Think for a minute about how the divide operates in you. How have you handled the gap between your head and your heart? What have you done with the split between what you have longed for and the life that seems handed to you? What have you done with your own disappointments, your crushed dreams? How do you handle what is expected of you in your family system? Is it freeing? Binding? What have you done with that? Where does it take you? What about expectations in the church or in society? What is acceptable to offer to others around you there? What seems unwanted or unvalued? What have you done with this? Finally, how do you present yourself to others? Is there a difference between the person you present in public and the one you live with in private? What is the difference? Why is it there? What's behind all this?

To all these disturbing questions, the Bible seems to add more trouble. Paul announced, "If anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!" (2 Cor. 5:17). Yet for so many Christ followers, the old seems to be hanging around relentlessly, despite all efforts to change. Was Paul guilty of apostolic hyperbole? Was he overstating his case to get everyone's attention? Why do the biblical truths that should comfort us seem so distant at times? Why is there often such a division between what we may read in the Bible and what we experience with our lives? Why the disconnect? What's behind this? The questions are unsettling. That's why we often choose to just keep moving. Perhaps in the busyness, we won't have to stop and face it.


But this pattern of avoidance hits a snag when we look at the life the Scriptures call us into. While the Bible acknowledges in so many places the reality of the divide, it doesn't accept it as inevitable. The divide, from Scripture's point of view, is the abnormal, the deviant—it's not the way things should be. It's a split that needs to be mended, a tear that needs to be healed, a gap that needs to be closed. Throughout the biblical drama, we are being called to push back against the divide. We are being called to a life of single focus, of being undivided, of having one passion.

The psalmist, in an outpouring of triumphant faith, exclaimed the cry of his heart: "I am pleading with the Eternal for this one thing, my soul's desire: to live with Him all of my days—in the shadow of His temple, to behold His beauty and ponder His ways in the company of His people" (Ps. 27:4). It is the one desire that overtakes and consumes all others: he simply wants to be near God. But isn't this a bit of poetic license? Isn't he being caught up in the emotion of the moment? After all, what do we do with all the other things we seek after—approval, recognition, security?


Excerpted from Divided by Bill Delvaux. Copyright © 2015 Bill Delvaux. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, xi,
Introduction: Stalked in the Night, xiii,
PART I: Viewing the Divide: How It Began and What It Destroys, 1,
CHAPTER 1: The Divide Opens, 3,
CHAPTER 2: Surveying the Wreckage, 23,
CHAPTER 3: A Tale of Two Tales, 43,
PART II: Tackling the Divide: Three Terrains to Navigate, 67,
CHAPTER 4: Surfacing, 69,
CHAPTER 5: Listening, 89,
CHAPTER 6: Telling, 109,
PART III: Closing the Divide: What the Journey Feels, Like,
CHAPTER 7: The Descent, 131,
CHAPTER 8: The Ascent, 155,
Conclusion, 181,
Appendix: Guided Silent Times, 185,
Notes, 189,
About the Author, 191,

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