What keeps your heart open? What are the things that give you life and keep you alert to God?
As I continue on life’s path, I’ve learned what it is that makes me feel alive and keep my heart open to God. Here are a few examples…
- Friends who go deep with me
- Silence and prayer
- Learning to talk less, listen more
In her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Rachel Held Evans describes her experience with centering prayer like this:
As I prayed, it felt as though my feet were extending through the ground, growing into long, winding roots, while my torso stretched like a trunk, my arms and fingers extending like branches. With every prayer and every silence the image of a great tree returned to me again and again until I found myself sitting up straighter, breathing in deeper and looking up.
Silence. It’s the quiet that has given me roots again. It has given me the tools to stay grounded (and when I say stay grounded, I mean TRY to stay grounded many times) during the storms of life. Those roots that have grown deep during times of quiet and prayer have kept me from flying away many times now. Prayer and silence keep my heart open to whatever the storm may bring, trusting that whatever happens, I am not alone. Silence is where I experience God.
Listening. Have you ever judged someone first and after sat quietly to hear their story? It’s amazing how your heart softens and opens up. By deeply listening to one another and hearing real life pour through our words, we stay open to one another. What if we work hard at telling our stories? What if we do this without judgement? Could you imagine how we may began to look at each other in a new way? It’s about being real and open with who we are and how we work. There are so many elements to our stories that are keys to understanding each other. Mine include being raised in a Christian home, being a city girl, depression, living now in a town that is not my own, parenting and so on…. Some things we can connect with on the surface, but often, even if the story is not ours, we can connect with each other’s response to life, on a deeper level.
Friendship. My friends keep my heart open. My husband is my best friend. He isn’t afraid to call me out on things that I want to keep hidden. He isn’t afraid to tell me to have more compassion on myself. He challenges me and loves me at the same time. My “silent friends”. These are the women who gather with me monthly to pray and share deeply. We cry together, we suffer together, we laugh together and we are silent together. We are present to one another. We are living real life, here in this moment and finding purpose and meaning in the ordinary and extraordinary. They are my support team. When I feel like things are too tough, it’s their honesty and love that opens me back up.
Running. Heart beating, sweat pouring, mind settling. It’s the view inside and out that brings so much satisfaction with running. It’s allowing the things that are bugging me to fall away for a bit and just remember my humanity. The pain of the hills, the exhilaration of completing a tough run. It’s the discipline of pushing my physical body to new heights, accomplishing things I never thought I could. I run with gratitude for the two legs that work so well and the body that allows me to experience this. None of this is a given, so I run while I can, loving the good and the bad of it.
My children. It’s the conversations I have with my kids, usually before bed, that can renew my hope and breathe life into me. Even in the questions I can’t begin to answer, it is a privilege to sit in wonder with them. My 5 year old cannot understand how people can hear God. He tells me he just cannot hear Him. And so together we talk about the mystery of it all and ways we can see God, even when we can’t hear him. It’s the loving arm that is put around me at a sad time. It’s their deep love for me that they so freely offer. Recently, at a church service, my 10 year old held my hand through all the hard parts. There were few words, just love passed through that affection. Thank you Lord for my children who’s hearts that are open to you, open mine.
Music If you know me, you know what reaches me, even deep into those dark places. It’s music. Music preaches to me. Over the last several years I have spent many hours listening to a few different artists who’s lyrics and notes put life into those unspoken words of mine. Honestly, I’ve really struggled to connect with much contemporary Christian music and find myself drawn to other artists. But wow, do I ever see God and feel Him in lyrics like this from Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. For me, it allows all the Christian language to fall away and experience humanity in a more universal way. God is there too.
I think this is a very personal thing. We are all created so differently.