These last months have been emotionally exhausting. Be it a mandate for masks, questioning who won the election, getting vaccinated or police reform . . . we choose sides. We put ourselves into bubbles where we deem those who believe differently, not simply wrong . . . but a threat. We select our media, so we never have to read an opposing view.
Edna St.Vincent Millay encourages us to stretch our hearts and minds in her poem “Renascence.” Whenever I read it, I’m reminded that we each hold in ourselves, the extent to which our hearts are stretched to seek wisdom, to love and to care for others.
“The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky”
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.” Edna St. Vincent Millay, Renascence and Other Poems
We make choices every day in how close we’ll let another person get to us. We make decisions about generosity of spirit. Will we express care for a person going through a tough time, or ignore the impulse to reach out? Will we risk a new direction or cling to our security? Will we pull into ourselves, when life is tough, or will we let others into our hearts? Will we let go of our fears and skepticism and risk caring about a person who disagrees with almost everything that is sacred to us. Will we allow the face of God to shine through?
Walter Brueggemann in his book, “The Threat of Life” says: “When we live according to our fears and our hates, our lives become small and defensive, lacking the deep, joyous generosity of God . . . Life with God is much, much larger, shattering our little categories of control, permitting us to say that God’s purposes led us well beyond ourselves to give and to forgive, to create life we would not have imagined.”
The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
*A version of this post was published on February 10, 2015, as
“How Wide the Heart, How High the Soul“