To be open-hearted: this is my touchstone for the summer.
You may guess that is because I see in myself over the last couple years, a tendency towards walls, towards clenching, towards closed-heartedness. I am not sure why I stopped playing the piano and writing tears into my journal and keeping my soul open to the kind and unkind things that people said. I only know now, that it is easier to watch TV than to write in a journal. It is easier to tolerate people than to love them. It is easier to be busy than to be still.
To be open-hearted comes with such risk.
I was the epitome of an open heart, then. I was aching and frightened but so tender, so ready for healing, ready to meet God, however terrifying God might be.
So I sat, broken heart and all, fears and failures and all, on a roof under the stars in
and I said to two people whom I had met less than a week before, I am going
to need community.
But who tells two people you have just met that you are aching from a rough year and desperately need their friendship? Deep needs should be reserved for a friendship of six months, at least.
The hazy, humid air was silent except with the buzzing of mosquitos, and I wished I hadn’t said it, but the words were unswallowable.
Wondering if you’ve said too much is a byproduct, I think, of life open-hearted. I was just naïve enough to hope these people might actually care. (I was lucky. It turned out that they did.)
This summer, I am trying to be naïve enough to imagine that people care.
To imagine that I might have something to offer to the woman sitting next to me who is just out of prison, motivated for her recovery from addictions, and desperate for a job. To imagine that she might have something to offer to me. It may be a long shot, but I have to be prepared for the moment when it comes.
To intentionally drain the demanding, sarcastic tone from my voice before I speak to my husband. Instead, to tell him how soft and vulnerable I feel, how unlike myself. Perhaps, in that one moment he misinterprets my tone, senses me accusing again, and snaps back, I will hurt. But I keep my heart exposed anyway, because the oxygen and the yearning will bring it healing.
To let theology be simple sometimes. “I don’t question God,” the man sitting next to me says at support group. “I just ask for help for myself and others for today.”
To return with trepidation to my long-abandoned journal, unafraid of what I might learn about myself, about God. Even if the truth hurts, it will set me free.
Church of the Saviour is a good place to be, for all of this. It is rather a way of life, here, to ask and be asked, “what is your deep need?” It is hard to get far here without sharing from an open heart.
In one of the groups, I am asked to share my “money autobiography”—all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences I’ve had around money throughout my life.
When I was in perhaps middle school, I asked my mother about how mortgage worked. This led into a conversation about her income, worth of the house, debt, and various other personal financial details. At the end of the conversation, she told me that I should probably not discuss any of the information with others. They are not the types of details that we share publicly.
They are not. And yet, in this community, sharing them is part of the practice of being open-hearted and together. So I try to share honestly about money—not dollar amounts, but the experiences of giving and receiving, of shame and conflict and generosity and hurt and acceptance and power that have surrounded my life as a person in an economic world.
I enter the room anxious, but when I leave, I know that we all have struggles with money, and no matter what the details—rich or poor, envy or shame—we are in it together. We need each other.
Three days later, on Sunday, there is a period in the church service where people can share aloud their gratitude, or their prayer requests.
In most churches in my experience, church prayer requests follow an unspoken rule of being restricted to aunts with cancer, travel safety, and grief for a lost relative. But here today, a woman’s voice is cracking as she speaks about her friend whose father is returning from ten years in prison, and another woman is crying with joy about her sister’s return to this country after two years abroad, and a man in the back shares that his work has, and a grandmother says she is just so grateful for her daughter-in-law who has been a pillar of strength as her son is going through a hard time.
You sit there listening, and if there is something on your heart, you feel that maybe next week you might be brave enough to share it. You feel like people really want to know what’s going on with you, like people are really willing to tell you what’s going on with them. You feel there is a sense of deep caring and deep trust. It gives you inspiration, and you think you feel the walls crumbling a little bit in your own heart.