Why is change hard?
Let’s just begin with the heavy stuff; we’re moving this summer. We’ve known it for quite some time. The beginnings of this change came almost a year ago as a political academic situation chucked a figurative grouse through our hearts, made it difficult for my husband to be effective at work, and shattered the dream of living forever here in Vermont. I won’t go into the details, but it was clear that change would come eventually, and now we know its form. We will relocate to Orem, Utah, while retaining our house in Vermont.
But why did it hurt so much to see that dream break into smithereens? Why didn’t I react with more grace and pliability? Because my heart is not what it should be. I hope someday I will have the kind of heart that takes change with a small nod of the head and a wise smile, but I’m not there yet. My heart still has some facets that are made of glass. Sometimes thin glass.
You remember, of course, what happened to the old, single-paned glass in my front porch when the grouse flew through it last winter. It broke in a million jagged pieces and flew everywhere. It took a long time and lots of patience (and duct tape) to find it all and clean it up. And the shock took many days to wear off. When you put up a window of glass, you kind of expect it to keep things out. But what if that space was filled with something else, something not so fragile as glass, something that reflected the reality that things would try to fly through it? Because life doesn’t stay neatly on the outside.
Tempered glass is a decent replacement for single-paned glass. Glass that is tempered has been subjected to extreme heat and pressure before it is used. It has already seen some action before it arrives at the installation site. If I fill the holes in my heart with tempered glass, I am less likely to break so easily, less likely to create a dangerous situation of jagged shards when I do break, and less likely to hurt. Right?
This talk, by Kent Watson, extolls the advantages of being temperate in a religious sense. I like his thoughts a lot and have mulled over this idea for a long time. He states, “…A temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength. With increased spiritual strength, we are able to develop self-mastery and to live with moderation. We learn to control, or temper, our anger, vanity, and pride. With increased spiritual strength, we can protect ourselves from the dangerous excesses and destructive addictions of today’s world.” Being temperate sounds like a good idea.
But is there an even higher way? What could I wrap my heart in that would be better than tempered glass? (Do I even need to protect it?) Is there something that would allow for surprises and give way to the changes I need to incorporate without resisting so much that it breaks? Something that self-heals? Jell-O? Mashed potatoes? Chewing gum? What kind of heart does God have? How does He deal with the unimaginable pain of watching His children fight each other, kill, hate, live indifferent to the needs of their brothers and sisters, take from the earth ungratefully, and all the other terrible things we do? What is His heart made of and how do I become like that?
In the book of Moses, the prophet Enoch records this: “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? …The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…. Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren. …And the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7) God clearly feels the pain. But somehow His knowledge and power gives Him the capacity to understand it, endure it, and love us despite all of it.
I think I want a heart of plasma. I want it to be open to change, pliable, and full of light and energy. I don’t know a lot about physics, but I think plasma is the closest material to the kind of flexibility, light, and power that I want my heart to have. Gas doesn’t have enough form, liquid can take a form but a puddle of a heart isn’t what I have in mind, and solids are strong but a little too breakable. Having a soft, strong, pliable, self-healing heart will require faith. I don’t have God’s abilities and characteristics right now, but I can have faith that allowing change to make me better- growing- will be a good thing. Even if it hurts to grow.
How do I go from a heart of brittle solids to something like what God’s has? Every time my heart breaks (a little or a lot), I have the choice to replace the glass with the same thing, something softer, or something harder. Each figurative grouse that flies (or is thrown) into my life offers me the chance to replace plain glass with tempered glass, and tempered glass with Jell-O, and Jell-O with… well, you get the idea.
I have the tools and power to change my heart. When I signed up for this life, I believe I understood that I would be given chances to make the needed changes, but God wouldn’t force me to use His materials. He would just give me opportunities. I get to choose whether broken glass gets replaced with patches of iron or patches of star-stuff.
Someday, someday, I hope my efforts to grow can create a heart that is as loving, forgiving, merciful, tender, stretchy, resilient, strong, illuminating, and powerful as His.