I am a proud parent of five children, ages 22 to 8. Our eldest is married in Bismarck, and he and his bride recently shared that they are expecting. Most of my family is from Michigan, where my folks live in a log house we built when I was in high school. Jodi’s family is in South Dakota, for the most part—her parents live in the Black Hills.
We are spread out across three time zones. During this time of uncertainty, I wish we were closer. I worry about all of them: How are they getting on? Do they have what they need? Would they tell me if they didn’t—and what could I do about it? I pray for them daily, but that doesn’t keep the concern away.
Sometime in the past week, I ran across a description of the “layers” of the human heart. The surface layer is the emotional heart; it is reactive and feels what it feels quickly and intensely. The next layer is the intellectual heart; this level weighs the emotions against reality and tries to come to a rational conclusion. But the innermost layer is the spiritual heart, where God resides. This is the core, where we discern the fullness of Truth and experience the peace and joy that come with it.
My initial reaction to this image of the heart was twofold:
- First, I added a hard, external shell, with which many of us try to protect our emotional hearts.
- Second, I imagined the relative thickness and consistency of those layers in my own heart. My shell, it turns out, is thin and brittle. My emotional layer, however, is overly thick and very soft—its pliability makes it very difficult to pass through. The intellectual layer is solid, if I can ever get that deep, but I spend much of my time trying to balance the emotional and intellectual layers without ever getting to that spiritual core.
In Adoration on Friday, it struck me that, if Jesus is alive in that spiritual core, I need to reach it, because He is the source of strength and courage in the face of uncertainty and suffering. I began to seek a path I could take to that innermost place but made little progress.
Then it occurred to me that I should just ask Jesus to guide me there, to Himself. Lord, I can’t get to you on my own, I prayed. Please help me.
I began thinking of all the things worrying me. My kids. My wife. My parents and hers. Our siblings and friends and their families. My job, my plans, my dreams. I saw that most of my worries were beyond my control, in an unknown future. And I thought I should just hand each of these things to Jesus and say, “Here. You take it. I don’t know how to help with any of these things anymore. I can barely manage what I need to do today, let alone all of this.”
At first I mentally scolded myself for being distracted from the task of letting Jesus lead me to Himself. Then the obvious occurred to me: I am before the Blessed Sacrament, and I just asked Jesus to lead me. This is Him, leading me.
So I began to pray, going person by person, worry by worry, acknowledging my fears, my inability to know or affect the future, my powerlessness—and handing it all over to the One who has already suffered through and survived all of this because all of time is present to Him. And I began to feel peace.
I try to carry too much. Of course it’s beyond me. Now, each time a new concern arises—politicians, the economy, our malfunctioning clothes dryer, my retirement plan—and I feel my chest tighten and my vision narrowing, I turn to Christ and say (often out loud): Lord, I give this to You. And each time I do, the burden is lighter, and I take another step closer to that innermost place where He dwells, deep within.
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Blogger’s Note: This post first appeared as part of the Wednesday Witness blog series on the St. Michael Catholic Church website.