Thursday, July 26, 2012

The softening of one's heart

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of letting go. I recently watched the following video that is about a man who lost his wife and three of his children in a car accident when they were hit by a drunk teenage driver.

The man talks about his experience with letting go and finding peace and forgiveness in spite of very difficult circumstances, that would lead me to ask a lot of why questions. It is slightly unfathomable to me to think of a shaking, or defining, experience as something to just let go of, as if it never happened or didn't matter. Because honestly there are things that do matter and do make a difference. In the story of this man who lost several members of his family, that experience changed things. There isn't any going back and pretending that didn't happen when he wakes up in the morning to a cold side of the bed. And I've often thought, how can I deny the experience that shattered the mirror when I cannot deny that the mirror is shattered.

But I realize that in part I think about it wrong. I guess it is just to deny the negative and painful parts. I don't have to deny the shattered mirror i just have to deny that which keeps it shattered. Does one have to be ready for that to happen? Or can it just happen? Did that man just deny what he felt about the loss of his wife and young children? How did he let go of the pain, and loss, and hurt? How in the world does one let go of things that are terrible and unmendable? Or let go of repeated offenses that were purposeful in nature? And how in the world is it as some describe, "just gone" because you "let it go"?

In thinking about this I realize that there is something to be said about the heart in all of this process of letting it go. And I think there needs to be something said of a soft heart as well.

"The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away
On either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by."

Edna St. Vincent Millay "Renascence" [1912] last lines

Sometimes my heart feels like that - either pushing the sky apart or being caved in on, and usually the later. And I find it an interesting paradox that the heart that actually splits the sky in two for the face of God to shine through is the soft one. The hard heart is the one that the world caves in on.

But how does one cultivate the soft heart? How can rocky and impenetrable soil be changed to Eden?
I wonder if all people's hearts start out the same? Do they all begin tender and soft? A virgin planting ground that has never seen sorrow, never seen weeds or cracked earth, but never seen lush fruit or goodness either? How does soil that was once fertile and waiting to be tilled get back to that place after drought, natural disaster, and environmental damage? And doesn't that take time?

Of course through the Savior all things are possible, but I find myself asking "Lord, how is it done?" because some things have long lasting effects, some things take a while to heal, some scars never completely fade away, and sometimes it is really something that seems impossible to change, to become new, to live life fully, devotedly, and joyfully.

The Lord told Enos and countless others in not so many words that it, and all things, are done though faith in Him. And this is where I find myself in a predicament because I believe the Savior, I know that he died for me that all wrongs might be made right. I in short have faith in the Son of God. Or do I? Am I doing it wrong? Have I missed the whole point all along? Because I still have hurt and pain that doesn't let me go. How do you just "let go" of something that is there? How do you just ignore when the broken mirror still hasn't been swept, or when it has, there are still shards underneath bare feet? Just let go?  I must fail to see something because for some reason knowing that someone can take all pain but doesn't (despite prayers and righteousness) does not make me feel better. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong when the answer always seems to be to give it to the Lord, or let it go. Let it go where??

And in the midst of all, how can I learn to love? Because that is what truly softens the heart. How can I make my heart soft? Because that is what causes things to let go, I think - a soft squishy heart that just lets things bounce off of it, or is able to absorb them. A soft heart can release. A soft heart can find solace. How does the heart soften?

I feel like I have more I should say about this soft heart but I realize that I don't know much about it. The imagery I see is of soft garden soil, sweet new grass, baby's skin, ripe uncut peaches, and the green blanket that my grandmother gave me. The soft heart is a place and it is a feeling to me. It is warm, inviting, never cross, always patient, and its eyebrows are turned up instead of down. At least that's how I imagine the soft heart.

1 comment:

  1. Two big thoughts from this:

    This line of yours struck me: "I must fail to see something because for some reason knowing that someone can take all pain but doesn't (despite prayers and righteousness) does not make me feel better. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong when the answer always seems to be to give it to the Lord, or let it go. Let it go where??"

    I've often thought that idea of letting the Lord take away your pain is kind of misleading. I have pleaded before for him to change my situation, to just come and rescue me and make the pain stop, because as long as the situation persists, I will be suffering because it is not fixed. Things are broken, and as long as they are broken there is an ugly wound in my soul. But I think the way it works is that in the act of turning to him, we surrender our own willfulness, our own befuddled coping strategies, and allow him to make good use of the pain. It's like, we are trying to lift this huge boulder, and we hate it, and, WORSE, it looks so effortless for other people to carry on with this big boulder. I must have been made of a weaker metal than other people. They must be naturally stronger. So I pray, take this boulder away. Or give me a lighter boulder. But instead, because he has felt the exact pain I am in, and he knows perfectly how far I need to go and what I'm supposed to do with this boulder, he shows me how to reposition myself so that I can carry it easier, and if I allow him, he'll walk along beside me and lighten my heart. Once my heart is lighter, comforted and at peace, the boulder feels much lighter. Metaphor aside, it usually involves an attitude adjustment on my part. It ALWAYS requires me to be more humble.

    The other thing about a soft heart. I was thinkingi about the parable of the sower a while ago and how some seeds fell on good ground. And the ground, of course, is our hearts. Well, how do you make hard ground soft? You saturate it with water. And Christ is the living water. So I was pondering how do we access that "living water?" And I think it comes down to having an actual personal relationship with the Savior. Not a theoretical belief, not a hope that what we've been taught is true, but a relationship so profoundly real that if the Savior appeared in front of us, we would not hesitate to hug him as you would hug the person that you're closest to here on earth. And if it seems irreverent to talk of hugging Christ, there have been times, as I've pleaded for comfort, that I have an outpouring of love as powerful as if he was literally embracing me. I can't wait to hug him back someday.