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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 8: Flowing from a Pure Heart

 One of the women on the Belize Team was an English teacher. She brought with her Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Rainer Maria Rilke. As she read his poems, she would share them with us, sometimes only a few lines, sometimes a whole poem. A few lines from one of these poems planted the seed for another change in my thinking that grew in the months following our trip to Belize.

I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving. . . .

May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

(from "Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte" by Rainer Maria Rilke)

In one season of my life, I had tried to appear as if I had everything together. I pushed my emotions down deep and pretended issues that were a problem weren't really a problem. However this approach to life left me feeling driven, lonely, and isolated, unable to be real with anyone.

The next season of my life, I focused on being authentic and genuine. However, in the context where I was learning this approach, being authentic translated into letting all one's yuck and poor behavior spill out all over others. As a teacher and youth mentor this was a formula for disaster, yet I still resonated with the idea that authenticity was important . . . but it shouldn't look like THIS.

The words of Rilke's poem combined with a quote by Amy Carmicheal ("A cup of sweet water, no matter how violently jarred, will never spill bitter water.") lead me into a new season of development - Flowing from a Pure Heart. Authenticity is important and so is not spilling one's own yuck all over others. To be authentic and appropriate required a transformation of the heart.

 I read a story once (although I don't remember where) of a small village in the Alps known for its crystal clear, delicious water. High up on the mountain was the spring, tended by an elderly man, that fed the village's water supply. The aged man kept it clean of debris and guarded it faithfully from anything that would contaminate the water. Eventually he died and there was no one to tend the spring, to guard against debris and over time the water became contaminated and unfit to drink.

This story captures the idea of flowing from a pure heart. A pure heart is one that is guarded against those things that would contaminate it. Beautiful, life-giving authenticity can flow from a heart that is filled with integrity and kept through self-control and the on-going work of God to transform and shape it. Transforming, growing, and guarding the heart are an ongoing process that requires cooperation between us and the Spirit of God in us.

For me, I have good days and bad. There are days where I can look back and say I lived the majority of this day with a heart that was well-guarded and exercising integrity and self-control. There are other days where I fail miserably and I have to clean out the spring again so that the water can run cool and clear. It is a process, a journey of becoming . . .

Do you resonate with Rilke's words? What about them strikes you?

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