I’ve heard rumors that as you get older you tend to go down one of two paths:
Either their edges and tendencies become sharper, harder and amplified, or they become softer – slightly desaturated by their life experiences.
I turned 37 last weekend. While that’s certainly not old, I know for sure which of these “ways” I will choose to travel with.
When I first became aware of my tendencies, I watched a commercial – you may remember that…
There was a little boy standing in the driveway, dressed in some sort of superhero costume. His small arms were stretched out toward the family car in the driveway. As he raised his arms to the car with superhero power, the car’s lights flashed and the horn honked. Because of this, he was convinced that his superpowers were working, and so he continued to move his arms and hands around the vehicle – every time it worked, he was completely satisfied.
The next shot shows his father inside the house watching the whole ordeal unfold. In his hand was the key fob for the vehicle. Each time the boy leaned over the car, his father would use the key fob to lock or unlock the car, causing it to light up and honk just at the moment the boy expected his power to take effect.
The father made the boy feel like a superhero at that moment. He enjoyed putting a smile on his face. The whole story was hauntingly sweet and reminded the viewer of the power parents have to give their children hope.
I remember watching this commercial after having one (or more… who can remember now…) of my kids. It touched me deeply and I quickly wiped tears from my cheeks as I watched it. “It’s so cute…” I whimpered to Stuart when he gave me a questioning look. “He wants his son to have hope…”
A few years later, my heart has become even softer. Weddings are occasions for larger celebrations. Births are more valuable. Death causes a deeper pain. The prayers are heartfelt and numerous.
I can happily sit and watch a cat nap – I enjoy the peace and quiet and know that she feels safe and comfortable. I keep little notes written to me by my children because I know the days of such precious gifts are numbered. There are experiences in my heart now that have shaped my view of the world and caused me to fall even deeper in love with a God who is enduring, true and beautiful.
Because of this, I’ve softened.
I didn’t go soft because life was easy or without pain and trials. Rather, because of the experience of these pains and trials, I am more empathetic and less dogmatic. The important parts of life amplify and the insignificant Everything else fades… fades…
And so we are in the garden. I no longer bear the burden of doing it one way or the other, but rather am able to fully open my heart to His gift. While any garden worth anything requires tending and tending, there will always be weeds and chores that require your attention. There is no perfection, no completeness. That is – quite simply – not possible.
Gardens, like life, require a lot of maintenance tasks and boom drum work. To be honest, there are some days when I don’t want to go out in the garden at all, knowing what work I’m going to do. But a soft heart has the ability to see beyond the weeds and imperfections and focus on gratitude.
Thank you Lord for giving me this garden to tend. For the good work I can do with my hands. Thanks for an efficient body and the feeling of the hot sun on my back. Thank you for this piece of land that we care for and with which we can create beauty. Thank you for the way we see your hand in creation and the way we get to know the artist through studying his masterpiece.
Now I see bumblebees, spiders, earthworms, flowers, seed pods, bright green garden hoses and yes – even weeds – with a soft heart. The goal has shifted from creating something magical, perfect and powerful to joy, contentment and peace with our endless work.
I’m in labor – don’t let the pretty words fool you. It’s backbreaking work.
But in the end I don’t feel unfinished. I’m thankfull.
Maybe this will make me a whiny old woman who enjoys bird watching and caring for little frogs that have claimed my pond as their home. Maybe it means that I will often cry over wonderful and sad things. Perhaps it means that I give much more grace to people and to myself as a person who struggles, loves, loses and longs. Perhaps my belief in a God who orchestrates every note of the symphony and who has bestowed upon me mercies I do not deserve softens my heart toward others who could also use some measure of that mercy.
But in a world that’s becoming ever more rigid and contrasted, I’d prefer a bleeding heart to synosism and bitterness. I would choose to embrace the imperfections in myself and others, and let life be what it is: fleeting, temporary, yet adorably hard and beautiful.
It’s all here. Packed in the garden. A softened, imperfect soul – made perfect only by a heart given by God to see its perfection in Christ.