Thursday, January 13, 2011

Harden Not Your Heart

Last night, I was the speaker at my ACA meeting. I really struggled with what to say. I signed up to speak several weeks ago, because I was feeling so disconnected and lost within the group. I thought that if I spoke up a bit more, I might feel "known" and a part of the group.

On Monday night, in spiritual direction, I talked about the ideas I'd jotted down for my talk. My SD challenged me to go deeper, not to hide behind niceties, but to be "rigorously" honest in all that I say. I went home and re-wrote my talk.

The next day, I shared it with a close friend. She asked some good questions and made some astute observations. I edited again.

Yesterday, I tried to pretend it wasn't Wednesday. All day, I found other things to occupy my hands and my mind so that I wasn't thinking about the talk. After dinner, DH took the kids to basketball practice. I took a shower, prayed for a while, and left for the meeting earlier than usual. I was very nervous.

Before the meeting, I talked privately with the woman who was chairing the meeting for me. She told me to throw out my notes and just let God speak through me. Not what I needed to hear 5 minutes before speaking. I can do public speaking. I do it fairly often, and actually enjoy it, but I like to feel prepared. And, usually, my public speaking opportunities don't find me baring my soul to near-strangers. Throw out my notes? How 'bout we ramp up that nervous stomach I'd been fighting all day?

To my surprise, I ended up doing just that. I stuck, more or less, with the themes of my written talk, but I spoke from my heart. I shared my hurt, my pain, and especially my anger. I cried. I pray I didn't scare the two new people at the meeting. And, the whole thing was over in about 15 minutes.

Then, the hard part started. After the speaker, there's about 45 minutes of "open sharing" when people can say whatever is on their mind. They usually do just that, perhaps making a comment or two on the talk, but mostly just sharing what they need to share that week. I had fully expected that, once my talk was done, I'd be out of the "hot seat" and able to just sit back and be quiet for the rest of the meeting. I'd earned that, at least, right?

Apparently I had not. Last night was an exception. The sharing time was solely focused on me. All but 2 people in the room spoke up, directly to me, and responded to what I had said. They were welcoming, encouraging, thanked me for being so brave and honest, shared some similarity or piece of hope with me. It was hard. It was humbling. I was touched by the kindness and love, and simultaneously ached with the pain of being ripped open. I kept looking at the clock, begging the minute hand to move faster, so I could slip back into relative anonymity.

When the meeting finally ended, I spent 30 minutes being enveloped by hugs and supportive words, one person after another. It was wonderful. And difficult. I was feeling completely broken-open. I was drained. I wanted to go home, hug DH, and go to sleep, but everyone wanted to talk with me.

Finally, I bundled up and headed out to the car. Once I was alone, I took a long, deep breath. As I let it out, I became aware of this ache in my chest -- a deep, physical pain. I took another deep breath. Tears spilled onto my cheeks, and I let myself rest in the pain. I imagined my heart encased in a hard plastic, which I had cracked open with public honesty. Oh, did it hurt.

The physical pain surprises me. This morning, I woke with the ache. I woke into prayer, begging God to give me the strength to work through this pain, and not give in to the desire to mend the plastic covering and bury the feelings once again. I bundled up and went to mass.

The first reading, from Hebrews: "Harden not your hearts." The psalm: "Harden not your hearts." The homily: ways we can keep our hearts soft and open to the will of God.

I so rarely get such clear direction from God. I can't imagine His will in this matter could be more plain if He'd shown up as a burning bush with two stone tablets.

And, it begs the question, can I do it? Can I follow His will in this, harden not my heart, and work through the pain instead of repressing it? Or will fear get in the way?

Incline my heart according to your will, o Lord.

1 comment:

  1. I am moved by this post. How wonderful it is the way God works in our lives.