How to Achieve Real Transformation of the Heart

My French is rusty. It pains me to admit this, because I have a lot of pride about growing up bilingual as a missionary kid. My family moved from California to France when I was seven. We attended language school for a year, and then I was dropped into French public school for the rest of my elementary and junior high years.

I watched French TV, read French books, and made French friends. Afraid we’d lose our English, my parents banned French in the house, but they couldn’t stop me from thinking in French!

All this to say: I’m losing it.

And I know this is true because we have French neighbors in our condo complex and when I tried chit-chatting with them, they talked too fast and the right words escaped me, and I felt slow and clunky.

Alarmed, I vowed to do something about it. I downloaded some French podcasts and a French national news app. I borrowed a short French novel from our public library.

This happened months ago. The novel proved too difficult and after a week or so I forgot all about the podcasts. In truth, my good intentions fell by the wayside.

Our actions reveal our desires

Does this ever happen to you too? We say we want something, but then we don’t back it up with action. In reflecting upon why I didn’t follow through on my desire to dust off my second language, I had to admit to myself that maybe I didn’t want it enough.

If my desire had been stronger, I would have done everything in my power to make it happen. I would have persevered through the hard novel (or found an easier one.) I would have created daily habits around the French podcasts. I would have sought out my neighbors to practice.

In thinking about it, I had to admit that there were other goals I wanted to attain more than this one.

This month, we’ve all stepped into a brand-new year. Many of us have big goals we are working towards, and most of these goals are visible and measurable: as the days go by, we can measure our miles run, our words on a page, our numbers on a scale. But some of our goals are harder to track and our progress too abstract to measure or quantify.

Our spiritual life is like this. After all, how can we track the deepening of our faith, or measure how closely we are walking with God? Keeping track of spiritual growth can quickly give way to dutiful performance instead of real transformation of the heart.

Many of us want to grow closer in our relationship with God, but we bemoan our lack of time. Compounding this problem, spiritual growth is something that happens slowly over a lifetime—not something that lends itself easily to quick wins. Even though we have good intentions around growing deeper in our faith, our relationship with God gets sidelined in favor of tangible progress on other goals, or overlooked in the midst of our busy, everyday lives.

how to achieve real transformation of the heart

If you see yourself in these words and find yourself nodding along—wanting to grow deeper in faith but not always following through on your good intentions—I’d like to share two practical suggestions that have helped me:

1. Shift your mindset about the spiritual life

We have compartmentalized our lives without knowing it, believing in a pie chart myth that goes like this:

A slice for marriage

A slice for career

A slice for parenting

A slice for hobbies

A slice for friendship


We put God into the slice for our “spiritual life” and if we’re lucky, we can devote 30 minutes of our daily pie chart to a quiet time focused on God. There’s nothing wrong with setting aside a quiet time for God. But God is with us always, in every slice of pie.

In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg puts it like this:

“The truth is that the term ‘spiritual life’ is simply a way of referring to one’s life—every moment and facet of it—from God’s perspective. Another way of saying it is this: God is not interested in your ‘spiritual life.’ God is just interested in your life.”

John ortberg

This means that spiritual growth can happen throughout our days and not necessarily only during our “quiet times.” This means that there are ways we can connect with God within our routine, ordinary slices of life. There are spiritual disciplines that we can practices while we’re at the grocery store, or walking the dog, or playing with the kids, or on our way to work.

This mindset shift was a game changer for me, and I hope it will be for you too.

2. An invitation to engage in spiritual practices.

Spiritual practices are activities we engage in so that we may grow closer to God. They help us connect with God on a deeper level. Most of us are familiar with a few key spiritual practices such as Bible reading, praying, and worship—but I’ve discovered over the years that there are many more practices out there that can enrich our relationship with God.

I took a deep dive into just HOW busy women like us can engage in spiritual practices. I learned so much putting together a digital course for busy women who want to grow closer to God through spiritual practices, and I know you’ll find it helpful as well!

One mom who took my course said:

I’ve really been loving Sarah’s course. It is very high quality, jam-packed with helpful content, obviously well-researched and well-organized. I enjoyed the printables and worksheets as well; they were not fluff! It is well worth my time and money, not to mention a great way to kick off the new year. I can’t wait to be more intentional about my spiritual practices and see what fruit it bears in my life.

Cassandra T.

Check it out by clicking on the picture below!

Spiritual practices digital course for busy women

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*Feature photo purchased from Pixistock

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

4 thoughts on “How to Achieve Real Transformation of the Heart

  1. It’s so true that our actions reveal our desires. I totally compartmentalize my life, and definitely see the need for pursuing a deeper relationship with God. Thank you for the thought-provoking post.


  2. Wonderful post on how to achieve real transformation of the heart. I found the pie chart analysis thought provoking and very interesting. Thank you for sharing this just in time for a new year.


  3. I love this post! “Spiritual growth can happen throughout our days and not necessarily only during our “quiet times.” This means that there are ways we can connect with God within our routine, ordinary slices of life.” So true and so encouraging!


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