George Eliot said somewhere in her novel Middlemarch that if we were sensitive enough, we would hear the grass scream and the pain of the natural world. Yet for most of us, we are so dulled to suffering, so blunted by fear, denial and our own cocoon that it takes something damaging, something awful, to open our eyes.
Why don’t we respond to the gentle things? I read an autobiography by a soldier in WWI, Edmund Blunden, called Undertones of War, where he said that the little things pierce deep enough. In fact, sometimes they pierce more deeply than death itself, which is too bald, too brash, too ugly to actually communicate anything. An end is just an end.
When it comes down to it, are we living with our hearts or with our minds? For the last two or three weeks my mind has been so exercised by THINKING about different things – starting off down one chain of possible consequences and then branching off to another; so what do I need to do to make THIS happen? And then what to make THIS happen? I feel I’ve been boring my wife, myself and probably God as well by not making space to live with my heart.
Because the heart is where our life is. Symbolically, biologically, gaspingly, our life pulses on with every beat. And if we’re not feeling, we’re not really living. Some people have criticised happy clappy Christianity for glossing over feelings; some people have said that we’re paying too much attention to feelings. Has anyone in the West actually given enough credit to the state of our emotions, to death, to morality, to divinity? It seems to me that other traditions, the orthodox, the monastic (thankfully in recovery), seem to have a better grasp of life in its totality.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this. It’s just that we have to be honest about our faith, because certainly evangelical Christianity has been lived too much in the head, and not enough in our hands and feet. Maybe I’m just saying that because deep down I know I’m not very bright! But also, because I know that hearts are changed by other hearts changing. And if that’s what we’re looking for; if that’s what Jesus is looking for; then we need a change of heart ourselves. And we are always going to need a change of heart. Not the same old same old.
My greatest fear has come upon me. That everything that I have done so far has been mistaken. That I need to recalibrate and change direction. That I am going to have to say sorry. That I have worn a groove down a pointless track; that I have beaten a path that has headed to a precipice. But that’s okay. That’s all right with God. He knows everything I do before I do it, and he has seen me completely, and he is still crazy about me.