She said a number of things I wanted to blog about, but the image that stood out to me the most was the idea of your heart being like a shriveled apple. She had a couple apples that she had taken from her tree at home just days before the conference. After a long winter they had shriveled and hardened, appearing much like the apple in the above picture. She said she thinks our hearts can do that when we let them. They can shrivel and shrink and become hard---not letting anyone or anything in, not feeling love for others or feeling God's love for us.
She said our hearts can become shriveled through our own choices---sin, insecurity, guilt, and simply choosing not to share ourselves with the world are a few of the causes. And sometimes our hearts are damaged by others. When a bird pecks at an apple the apple defends itself by making the damaged area hard. Sometimes we are so pecked at, so damaged, with our hearts so covered with wounds, that we protect ourselves by hardening our hearts. This behavior is bad news for apples---who cannot recover from their self-protection, but it's good news for us. We can recover. We can choose to break down walls and barriers and open our hearts to others---and in so doing we open our hearts to feeling the love God has for us.
She spoke of how we need to physically create the feeling that we are opening our hearts to others. I've been trying it, and I like it. In the two whole days since, I've found that I listen better to others, and when I do, I go away happy and having learned something from them.
I re-read her book last night (it's a quick read) and found new insights and a renewed desire to open my heart to others. One quote that she quoted in the book was by Mary Lou Kownacki, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." I love that. Once we really know people and know why they are the way they are, we can't help but love them.
My last few blog posts have sparked an unexpected response in comments on the blog, on Facebook, and mostly in emails I've received from others. And you know what? We're basically all the same! So many of the comments and emails in essence say, "Me too! I feel the same way; I had the same experience." Even more I love the responses from a number of people who have told me, "You know, I wrote a whole long response to your post. Then I deleted it because I realized I didn't need to write it to you, I needed to write it for me." I love that! I love that our shared experiences can provoke thought and reflection---whether or not you share those thoughts and reflections with me.
Sister Pearce also quotes John Steinbeck in her book, he said,
"We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say---and to feel---'Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that's the way I feel it. You're not as alone as you thought.'"When we open our hearts to others, we're doing just that. We're saying, "You're not alone!" and when we do that, God can find his way right into our open heart and echo the sentiment, "You are not alone." Is there anything better than that?
*Picture by Benson Kua