Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Please do not open your test booklet.

The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken; He has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals Himself in glory. Our God will come and will not keep silence. Psalm 50:1-2

A disciple asks the rebbe: “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon your hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?” The rebbe answers: “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks and the words fall in.”  —Hasidic tale

Suffering breaks our hearts — but there are two quite different ways for the heart to break. There’s the brittle heart that breaks apart into a thousand shards, a heart that takes us down as it explodes and is sometimes thrown like a grenade at the source of its pain. Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, growing into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.
What can I do to make my tight heart more supple, the way a runner stretches to avoid injury? That’s a question I ask myself every day. With regular exercise, my heart is less likely to break apart into shards that may become shrapnel, and more likely to break open into largeness.
My heart is stretched every time I’m able to receive life’s little deaths: a friendship gone sour, a mean-spirited critique of my work, failure at a task that was important to me. I can also exercise my heart by taking in life’s little joys: a small kindness from a stranger, the sound of a distant train reviving childhood memories, the infectious giggle of a two-year-old as I “hide” and then “leap out” from behind cupped hands. Taking all of it in — the good and the bad alike — is a form of exercise that slowly transforms my clenched fist of a heart into an open hand. Parker J. Palmer

Fat out inexplicable.

I woke up perfectly content this morning.

And not a single thought of new seating charts or a snotty nose or trying to set up an online account to pay my mother’s electric bill could dissuade my smiling soul.

And yesterday was craziness multiplied a hundredfold as my little class faced three then three and a half and then four hours of absolute silence (Ha!) as they wrote a persuasive how-many-sentences-do-we-have-to-write standardized test essay. Dear Lord, God of gods. I made eight phone calls home yesterday afternoon.

And maybe it is the way the sun is glinting off of the exactly-the-right-shade-of-brown-paint that Scott Holmberg used on the front of the house, Or my spinach quesadilla tucked in a baggie for lunch. Or the cockatiels burbling in the greenhouse. Or just remembering all of those jillions of happy hugs yesterday, even though my ribs crackled.

But betcha that it’s because so many people are praying for me, that I will traverse the storm in exceedingly great delight. Carried in His arms.

And I watched the shards thing yesterday, as my beloved Xavier climb on his chair and screamed profanities at the Rwandan refugee kid for looking at him that way.

And about the third time I looked hopelessly over the seething chaos and about the third time I wondered why on earth I had taken on this craziness, I remembered God’s call to a supple heart. May it break open into largeness.

His call to the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting, may He be revealed.

In me.

He will come. He will not remain silent.