Sometime in about 1984, I was walking home from my friend’s house. The trip was about ten blocks, and passed St. Joseph’s Catholic church. I wasn’t a Catholic (yet), and I wasn’t in a particularly odd mood. We’d been smoking cigarettes, drinking a few beers and listening to Social Distortion. As I passed by St. Joe’s, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I felt a deep, painful ache in my soul, and I burst into tears. I fell to my knees in front of the church, and tearfully begged God; “God, if you’re up there, please, please help me!” After a moment, the feeling passed. I looked around to make sure no one saw, wiped my tears from my face, and walked home. I never forgot the moment, but it didn’t mean much to me until much later in this dance of the heart, and I see that God’s been about the business of answering that prayer since that very moment. He took me literally, and never forgot.
A few years ago I prayed another prayer, similarly heartfelt; “God, I want my whole heart back! Do whatever you need to do to rebuild my personality according to your love.” I’ve gained some (but not much) awareness of the gravity of such prayers. I’m talking about dangerous prayers. Not dangerous like “please kill so-and-so” or “please give me a billion dollars” (I don’t know if He puts much stock in those), but dangerous like this’ll seriously disrupt your life. Asking for my whole heart back… I can almost hear “are you sure you can drink from this cup? Do you understand what you’re asking?” It’s a dangerous prayer, and there are times I almost wish I hadn’t prayed it. Heck, to be honest, I do wish that sometimes. For, to get your heart back – all of it – you must be willing to fight for it, and the battle is indeed more fierce than I imagined. In fact, it’s too much for me, and I’ve “gone under” many times (every time I think the battle can be won on Adam’s strength and wits).
I’ve come to believe that the “narrow path” is primarily a metaphor for the journey into one’s own heart (that’s where He resides, is it not?). Our hearts are fearfully guarded; there are dragons galore, and they are very dangerous, and do not want you on the path. St. Paul makes it clear that our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against ominous powers (eph 6:12). Translation; what seems real is not, and what seems unreal… is. Moreover, whether we risk open war or not, it is upon us! We’re living in an epic war, the stakes are life and death, and the ammo is live. But truly it is a love story set in a war. The Divine Lover is a warrior, and He’s after His bride’s heart. So, an honest prayer to get back our whole heart. Well, it appears that’s the same as saying “yes” to Gandalf’s invitation. “what sort of a story have we fallen into, Frodo?” It’s bigger than I had imagined, anyway.
The heart is a delicate thing, and must — must — have its safety. there are things that are too much for it to bare. It can be broken, perhaps beyond repair (outside of the miraculous). We intuit this, and so — when it receives arrows — we must do something; they cannot be left unaddressed. By “arrows” I’m referring to the wounding things that inevitably happen in this life. Some are minor; an unkind word from a friend, getting passed up for a raise, etc. Others are deep to our very core. My own deepest wound goes all the way back to childhood. And every one of these arrows must be addressed, interpreted if you will, because the heart is so precious and delicate. Tragically, when they happen, right at our most vulnerable time(s), the enemy is right there to offer his interpretation of the meaning of it and a plan of action to deal with it. For me, feeling alone and abandoned as a child, he whispered “you’re not wanted, and the world is a dangerous place. It’s too risky to love and be loved. You should protect your heart; close it up.” Not knowing what else to do, that little boy took that suggestion. I closed my heart, locked it, walled it up deep within me and tossed away the key. What followed was a lifetime of “evidence” that this was the right decision; disappointment after disappointment, wound after wound. So, when I prayed for God to help me, and later prayed for my whole heart back, the Lover of my heart heard the call and came after it. But alas, what has been laid down in pain must be accessed through pain. And the Lord knows just how to access the buried treasure of our hearts; He never loses the key, even if we hide it, but the lock resists the turn almost unto death.
It took the Lord almost thirty years to get to that place in me, and I’m talking about just getting to it and starting the healing process. I hope to tell the whole story of my rescue (so far) some day, but I can’t do it now and here. But I do want to tell part of it here.
When I first met Him, He was… magnificent. Knowing me and my wounded heart, He approached me in just the right way. He does not make too hard of terms for those who seek Him, and we were buddies, enjoying each other. Mostly, He played with me in the woods, and I loved to find Him there and talk to Him. I followed Him casually, and He lead me in the most amazing way to His Son. When I “met” Jesus, that too was easy and natural. From here, things got complicated. The path I took, afraid of my heart and what was in it (I didn’t know this at the time), I went the path of duty. Perhaps a necessary step, but — if followed too long — a deadly one. My intellect lead me to the Catholic Church (thank you, intellect!), but God had so much more for me than duty; He was after my heart, not my service. Year after miserable year passed. It was very dark. I supposed He needed it to get dark so I’d be wiling to risk the narrow path. It did indeed get dark; dark enough for me to want to take my life, but for the fear of eternal damnation. Crap, I’m going on too long. Let me skip ahead a bit.
To be continued (wife needs me inside). Bless y’all till then!