State of the Heart

By: Ian Wooldridge

Allow me to nerd out for a minute.

I love football. Especially college football.

Believe it or not, I once played QB, and even had a few opportunities to play in college.

(Of course, this was when I was about thirty pounds heavier, and had just a little bit more muscle than I have now.)

So, I particularly love to watch the offenses go to work; and I have some favorites from college football over the years.

Again, allow me a minute for nerding out:

I loved the Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree Texas Tech days.

Or, the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks from a few years ago.

How about the Pat Mahomes-led Texas Tech offense from 2016? It seemed like he threw for at least 500 every week.

Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, USC, mid-2000s — enough said.

And how could we forget the national champs from last season? Joe Burrow absolutely lit it up. Nobody could stop that LSU machine.

Some of you are like Who are these people? What are you talking about?

“Go sports ball!” as my wife says.

So, I’ll go ahead and spare you.

I just loved watching these offenses because it was a brilliant display of what happens when everything is firing on all cylinders; when the system is running at peak performance; when everything, as the expression goes, is operating like a well-oiled machine.

Of course, there’s not always perfection, or flawlessness, or zero mistakes — but how awesome is it to watch when the system is running perfectly?

Speaking of mistakes, I remember this one time, junior year of high school, during the third quarter of a football game. We were up big, so I thought, man, coach — let me get a designed QB run play!

Aside from the occasional QB sneak at the one yard line, I didn’t get a whole lot of run plays called for me.

(I guess that’s what happens when the majority of the defenses on your schedule have future D1 athletes who are all faster than you.)

Anyways, my chance had come — finally, a run play for me. Only one problem:

I called the play wrong.

As a result, we lined up in the wrong formation. So, when the ball was snapped, and I ran my bootleg out to the left, I had zero blockers in front of me.

5 yard loss.

I called the play wrong, we lined up wrong, therefore something was wrong with our system — it then yielded the appropriate result: loss of yards.

There’s a saying in the business world, often attributed to W. Edwards Deming, which goes something like this:

“Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results that you are getting.”

I’m not too business oriented, but I love this principal, and I’ve found it to be quite eye-opening as a principal for life, too. So, I apply it to my life as a general rule. I’ve found it to be super helpful in re-orienting my life around my deepest values, desires, passions, and priorities — namely, abiding with Jesus — when I find myself drifting off course at times.

So, are there results in our lives that we’re not liking?

Stressed all the time?
Anxious and on-edge all the time?
Irritable all the time?
Tired and drowsy all the time?
Low-grade anger and frustration all the time?
Not inspired or motivated?
Feel like we just never have enough time to do the things we really want to do?

Our system — our lifestyles — are “perfectly designed” to give us the results we’ve been getting.

Now, some things are out of our control in life; things happen that are hard, and there are consequences and outcomes that follow. I fully know and get that.

But, we do have the power to make choices, and when we live deliberately and intentionally, we find that we actually have a whole lot more power than we realize in co-shaping a life with God that abounds in vitality and spiritual buoyancy, in a settled love, joy, and peace.

So, is there a practice that we can apply to help us sort out the “system” that is our lifestyle? To help us recalibrate and dial back in when the results we’re yielding aren’t exactly life-giving?

The answer is, of course, yes.

The Practice: Self-Inventory

In Proverbs 14 we’re told that “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways…”1

About every month or so, I undergo what I call a “state of the heart” — or, in other words, I take a little self-inventory of my day-to-day activities and habits and rhythms, and I consider the effect that all of it has on my heart — therefore, my formation. In other words, as the Proverb says, I “give thought” to my ways.

The reality is, the things we do everyday have a say in our formation — in the “results that [we] are getting.”

Josh Porter, in partnership with Bridgetown Church, shows us what this practice can look like. They use the language of taking a “habit audit” to practice self-inventory. Porter writes:

The things we do also do something to us. You are, in one sense, the cumulative effect of your habits. Your habits are the outworking of that which you love, for better or for worse. If you are a human being, you love something. The question is, what do you love? The answer is revealed in the things that you do. The habit audit is a practice designed to inventory our habitual routines and rituals that together make up the sum total of our lives… in order to better understand what you love and, thus, what is forming you.2

In his book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K.A. Smith writes, “We need to recognize the power of habit.” 3

Or, again, as Porter writes, “The things we do also do something to us.” 4

Everyday, whether we realize it or not, we are being formed by the things that we do, by the things that have our attention most; and these things directly affect the “system” that is our life.

John Mark Comer, a huge hero of mine, writes:

In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to. That bodes well for those apprentices of Jesus who give the bulk of their attention to him and to all that is good, beautiful, and true in his world… we become what we give our attention to, for better or worse. 5

So, then, the invitation inherent in taking a “habit audit,” or in taking self-inventory, is to regularly check up on if we are living in alignment with what we truly love and desire most — because our daily habits, routines, and rhythms will reveal that; they’ll reveal what, per-capita, has our attention most.

And, if upon evaluation we find that we’re not living in alignment with what we say we truly love and desire most, then — in the context of God’s loving-kindness, grace, and gentleness — we course correct, under His guidance and care.

Taking a “habit audit” — or self-inventory — is simply an opportunity to course correct our habits, routines, and rhythms into alignment with what we deep down, truly love and desire most; to evaluate where we put our attention most. Or, to “better understand what you love and, thus, what is forming you,” 6 as Porter states.

Hear me, real quick: There’s so much grace in this! Whenever I take self-inventory of my life in this way, I’m always reminded that God never condemns us into transformation — He invites us into it.

He’s a fathering God. He doesn’t condemn us into newer, deeper life
He woos us into it.

So, there’s no guilt with any of this — just healthy conviction.

With all of that said, here we go! Here’s what a “habit audit,” or taking self-inventory looks like for me, and what it could look like for you:

When I decide to take self-inventory, I sit down with my journal and look back at my past week. I then evaluate the activities — or, the habits, routines, and rhythms — that made up the pattern of each day, from the morning when I first wake, and all the way through to bedtime. Then, I write each of the activities or habits down, and also how much time or money I spent doing them. You can actually, throughout the week, do this as you go, too, as one way to take note of your habits and activities. If you’re like me, you will quickly discover that you do indeed have habits at work, whether good or bad.

Without any judgement, shame, or guilt, I then simply write down the habits, routines, and rhythms, or activities that are making up my days.

If it helps, Porter gives an example in his teaching of what your journal entry or Notes app entry may look like while taking a “habit audit” of your day-to-day life:

  • 15 minutes making coffee
  • 30 minutes on social media
  • 1 hour working out
  • 2 hours of TV shows
  • 2 hours and $30 at a restaurant with friends
  • 1 hour and $25 shopping online

So, as you can see, it doesn’t need to be too extensive. Simply write down the activity, and then how much time or money you spent on it. 7

Now, after I write down the activities or habits that are currently making up the patterns of my days, I then run each habit, or activity, through this one question:

What is this habit doing to my heart?

That may seem like a vague question, but if you sit with it long enough, you’ll be able to answer it quite well.

Then lastly, to complete the practice, by God’s grace, if any activity is revealed to not be good for my heart — if there’s a habit that is causing the “system” that is my life to be off in some way — I seek to take that habit out. And, if possible, replace it with a habit that gives life.

For example, as I’ve shared in a previous blog, coming to the decision to not engage with my phone or technology in my waking or winding down hours, and to instead replace those habits with Scripture and prayer, came as the result of honest self-inventory.

I call this little “habit audit” or self-inventory practice, for me, my “state of the heart,” because as Proverbs 4 tells us, the things that take up the most residence in our hearts are the things that will take up the most residence in our lifestyles.8 So, I want to be really intentional about how my heart is. What’s really cool is that God is so invested in the life of my heart, too. So doing this with Him, I’ve found, is paramount for me.

So, taking a “habit audit” or self-inventory is a good and helpful way that I’ve found to check up on the life of my heart, and if the things I do everyday align it more to God’s heart, or further away.

As we continue in quarantine, while also nearing the potential reopening of our cities, now could be a really good time to take self-inventory and check the state of your heart, too, posturing it more to receive and give God’s love in the days of anticipation and transition to come; to check up on that “system” of yours called your life, and to see if there are ways you can partner with God in knowing healthier results — or, as Jesus would call it, bearing fruit.

To close, St. Augustine, in his Confessions, wrote “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”

May you know the power of the self-examined life — that, in beautiful ways, it can lead us deeper into the fathering love of God.


  1. Proverbs 14:8, NIV.
  3. James K.A. Smith You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Brazos Press, 2016). 4 Again from, emphasis mine.
  4. John Mark Comer The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019).
  5. Again from
  6. Ibid.
  7. See Proverbs 4:23.

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