“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
Oh yeah. I’ve got this one down, baby. Perhaps not in the way this verse was intended.
So much so that a couple of wise souls who love me, unbeknownst to each other, have gently nudged me in recent conversations.
If you read my blog with any regularity, you know the past five years have been less than a picnic. I know all of you also have your struggles. Perhaps they’re more distributed over the years of your life. I hope so.
And if they are not, then you may feel—as I do—that God has tempered steel by tempering you over the past few years. Deaths, divorce, financial issues, difficult choices.
“Thank you sir. Please, may I have another?” These sarcastic words crossed my lips on more than one occasion.
The truth is, I sorely needed that tempering. To do some housecleaning in my life, which continues. To look at the cast of characters on stage with me and see if they are truly playing a supporting role while starring in their own lives. Or if they are sniping about my role because they refuse to own their own.
To keep a house, a household and the love that fills both. To emotionally support two boys and myself. To learn things I so do not want to learn, from how to extend the life of my garage door to how to better plan for retirement.
Suffice it to say that while I thought I was strong before, I was wrong. Tempered steel is now the order of the day. Consider me molded.
I remember the concept.
In fact, I still apply this concept with my most trusted. My kids get my open heart. And a select few others.
But these friends are talking about an open heart toward romantic love. The kind that stays.
If you have been divorced, go ahead. Quake with me. We’ve done this before, haven’t we? Stood there before all of God’s creation, our crazy aunt, the annoying in-law and our best loved friends, and vowed. To love. To have an open heart. Not to retreat, even when it got hard.
I can’t tell you about my version of hard. Too many people would get hurt. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I learned that there are a few things on this earth stronger than love for some people. And that those things ruin lives, families, marriages.
My open heart had to close. Call it self-preservation.
It worked. I’m still standing. I went into survivor mode and damn it, we’re all still here.
So now, to tell me to open my heart again. Well, forgive me if I hesitate. Sputter. Walk away.
I pondered my friends’ words. I went where I always go for the best insight and advice. To my inner wisdom.
I did an “open heart” meditation. And what I could not decipher with rational thinking in the “real world” became crystal clear in a metaphor during this meditation.
Those of you who are staunchly in the science and intellect camp, be warned. I think those are great camps. Worthy of us all.
But when dealing with matters of the heart, you need a little mysticism. Not science. Facts play a role in love but they do not account for alchemy or vision.
I needed both.
I was asked to visualize my heart. So I did.
Guess what? My heart is a cathedral.
Score. I was so relieved not to see a shack or a parking garage.
It’s gorgeous. Light, sublime stained-glass windows, beautiful stonework, solidly and elegantly built. This was the work of a Craftsman.
All elements are represented within it. A reflecting pool stands outside filled with the most gorgeous water lilies you’d ever want to see. A large torch stands on another side of the structure. And a garden filled with the most gorgeous flowers and plants sits outside of yet another wall. Water, fire and earth all stand tall and balance the structure on each side.
The grounds surrounding it are lush, spacious and verdant. This particular cathedral is set in quiet surroundings, away from the hustle and bustle. It is a place that welcomes quiet reflection. Prayer. Love.
At this time, it is too quiet. A bit empty. I stood in this structure and wondered why it was not filled with gorgeous, loving souls. It begs for reverent celebration. Such a beautiful, unused space. I could see it had a rich history of celebration and felt it was time again for the same.
I envisioned a select few at the start. The faces of my best loved came to mind. I could hear the music, see the inviting flames of the torch, envision these souls wading in the lovely pool.
It is time, my love, I said to myself. Time to open up the grounds again.
And the worries came flooding back. What if all is trampled? What if the invited gobble up my offerings and leave early? What if I don’t choose wisely enough when assembling the guests? What if, this time, the damage is unsustainable? I barely survived the reconstruction.
And then, my own wise voice. An unused temple is a travesty. It is akin to the china that gathers dust, the mother who does not show affection, the lush towels left unused in a linen closet when someone dies. Of what use is beauty if it is not experienced?
I will guard my heart. Perhaps the boundaries will be a bit further out on the grounds, to stop the unfit from entering.
But for my welcomed guests– for those who are drawn to the fire, can warm to the water, appreciate the scent wafting from the flora—for these people, my heart will continue to open.
I usually have a distaste for folksy sayings. But there is one, forgotten, from many years ago that I used to appreciate.
Open your heart. Open it wide. Someone is standing outside.
I certainly hope so. And even more so, I hope it is someone who I can welcome unabashedly.
If no one awaits, my cathedral still stands tall and strong, hosting some very wonderful souls.
But adding one more to the gathering only seems right, in the long run.
One can guard an open heart. This is what tempered steel is for . . . and perhaps it is necessary, given my history.
I am the guardian I needed years ago. And I am better equipped now to protect myself while keeping the gates open to the right souls.
Because of that, all will be well in my heart.
Let the gathering begin.