When they cut me open for surgery, the doctors won’t find rings like when you chop down a tree. They won’t see my life spilling out in memories or qualities either. The variations within the rings speak to when the tree has endured something like an especially cold snap and when it has thrived due to say an abundance of water. The surgeon may be able to see how well I have fed my body or how I have abused it. That won’t give him an idea of who he is really working on though.
What if our heart had labels on it for courage, generosity, vulnerability, and love? Fear, hate, anger, and jealousy would also spring up. Maybe colour-coded sections could show how each emotion has been given and received would paint a picture for a doctor to see a patient’s life. A far-fetched idea like this would shock some patients upon waking as their doctors delivered the news. Sir, your heart is 90% fear. Miss, you’re heart sparkles brightly with the gold of love. Young man, generosity keeps your heart pumping soundly.
I have been thinking and reminiscing quite a bit as I have waited for surgery and wondered how I have been so blessed by so many people. I believe that you reap what you sow and I have tried to sow good seeds. Some have fallen on good soil. Wounded healers that we are, some have fallen short of a beautiful life. Much of what I have done in life I owe to inspirational people who have coaxed me beyond my limits. A colleague and I had lunch fairly recently and she said something surprisingly odd to me. I have picked up that gem many times since. I had complimented her on who she was and she responded with something to the effect of that’s because when I am with you, you call the goodness out of me. This gave me great pause as I believe I am who I am because many people did not give up on me–and still do not–when I am less than who God created me to be.
If we are to be like trees planted near streams of living water that prosper, what would our rings reveal about us? Someone once told me that I was generous to a fault. I spend a lot of time reviewing comments like that to see if they hold truth. How can someone be too generous, too kind? It can be done. If the other person feels suffocated and the relationship is unhealthy, there is truth in the statement. I suspect though as I played with that cube, turning it over and over, that this was not true of me. I have the most generous friends I know. I cannot out give most of them–and besides friendship is not a contest. When you truly love someone, who keeps score?
Gifts come in all sorts of packages. The same person who said I was too generous, never once complained about the hours of my time that I gave to the relationship to be of support during a challenging time. That was the most valuable gift I shared. To this day, I do not regret that. I need to be true to my calling. I want to call forth the best in people. I also want people to polish me until I shine. Some years the rings will be narrow; other years the growth will be amazing. If a doctor could catch a glimpse of my heart, I would want it to be full of the beautiful emotions that come from serving others.
Fabulous people have been part of my life and shown me how to love in authentic and vulnerable ways. I hope that after a long and precious journey I will arrive at the gates and God will see a dazzling, multi-coloured heart that delights God’s own heart. What would your heart look like tonight? Are you grateful for what is there or wishing you could pick up some different markers and colour over some parts? The Examen is one way to stay on track. Take a moment and review your day, asking God to show you your heart.