| ANNE WILLIAMSON |
One of my favorite books to read my daughter is The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring. It runs through a series of shapes and their role in our lives concluding with, “And this is the shape I love you with. This is the shape of my heart.” So sweet.
Lately, though, it’s become more than a heartwarming children’s book for me; it’s become a question: how do we form the shape of our hearts? How do we? How do we actually become more compassionate, more loving?
There are a thousand stories every day – personal and not – that pull us to explore this question. But, recently, none has pulled my attention like the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. (You may find a timeline here.) The analysis of, and responses to, this event and its aftermath has been so diverse, it begs the-shape-of-our-hearts question. How is it that we feel so differently?
Perhaps it is because we’re not actually practiced in changing the shape of our hearts? The reason being: to really change the shape of our hearts requires deep discomfort. It can’t be achieved through loving someone you find easy to love. It comes when you expose your heart to that, to who, you struggle to understand, you struggle to empathize with, you struggle to love, and then say to your heart, repeatedly, as many times as it takes, “Open.” Whether a spouse we know intimately or a young urban black man we don’t know at all, we change the shape of our hearts by, as Jesus said, loving the “enemy” we perceive in them.
It is my belief this is the work of real spiritual growth. Whether we call it “salvation” or “enlightenment” or “nirvana,” it is not a destination but a process of changing the shape of our hearts. It’s a process where, instead of hoping to love some people well, we, in time, shape our hearts into a form where there is nothing but love… for all.
What do you think? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE…
Sit with these words a moment. Maybe read or speak them aloud a couple of times. What do you hear? Keep listening...
Learning and loving are intertwined this week. Find an article on Ferguson from the perspective of your “other” – that is, a person whose experience you find difficult to understand because you don’t live it every day. I offer a few suggestions below.
Before you begin reading, say to yourself, “I will stay open. When discomfort arises, I will sit with it, not judging it, just feeling it, accepting it. Then, I will say to my heart again, ‘Open, open, open.’ And, I will allow myself to feel what comes.”
What's stirring in you? Consider sharing your experience with another and with God.