The space was cool with an ancient, heavy coolness sunk deep into the stone floor, clinging to my bare feet and staying between the bones. The air was the slightest bit damp, holding that intriguing stony-musty scent of very old places.
But the light. It was the light that made me understand.
A room in a 13th century Italian structure, formerly an abbey, was our bedroom for a week. When I opened the thick wooden shutters to let the feeble indirect light into the dim room, the bedsheet’s crumpled folds were illuminated. My eyes instantly recognized those distinct lines and shadows. I saw the difficult, long-studied shading of fabric folds painted by the masters, while beyond, in the corner, shadows fell over the foreboding wardrobe of some deep almost-color. I saw what the masters had seen.
All those Renaissance paintings with their bright, sharp-focused subjects wearing rich colors, cool eyes directly gazing out of faces illuminated against dark shadow-velvety backgrounds: this is what every room looked like, then.
Because light was precious. Light barely made it inside.
There has been a thought stirring at the back of my mind since this summer journey to Italy. It is simply that
whenever we construct something to keep people out,
we also keep out the light.
A village tucked away in a mountain range may feel unfindable and may deter unsafe people. But because of those same mountains, the sun rises a little later and sets a little earlier in that village–the day itself is made a little shorter for the mountains’ protection.
A fortress stout and strong will keep out invaders and make its inhabitants feel safe. But with windows narrow and closed, and walls high and impenetrable, the inhabitants will rarely feel the warmth of the sun–it will always feel like night inside, cool and dark.
Even an everyday bedroom curtain keeps others’ eyes from seeing you in a vulnerable state–but you cannot enjoy the light of morning until you pull back the curtains, taking the risk of being seen.
What I’m really speaking of
is the heart.
How many times a day do you hear the cold whispers–maybe you can’t hear them anymore because they’re such a part of you– telling you to “Be strong”? “Keep those walls up & keep your heart safely inside. Don’t let yourself get hurt again…”
When you shut out the risk of pain, you shut out so much more.
“I will remove your heart of STONE
& give you a heart of f l e s h “
He doesn’t give a heart of diamond–
immaculate, sparkling, unbreakable.
He doesn’t give a heart of steel–
efficient, usable, tough.
Nor does He give a heart of paper–
easily bent to one’s will, easily thrown away.
He gives a heart of flesh.
Flesh is what composes living human bodies,
God the sculptor,
God the engineer,
God the poet,
in His image, different from every other creature.
Somehow, we look like the One who is invisible.
And skin sets us apart–
we don’t have
a dragon’s myth-strong scales
or a bear’s wild-dense fur
or a bull’s stubborn-smooth thick hide
to protect us.
Fragile, vulnerable skin.
Flesh can be bruised, scratched, scarred. It can bleed. Flesh can feel so much pain.
But a heart of flesh is created to know and be known,
to love and be loved,
to speak and be spoken with,
to journey and be journeyed with,
to live and be tabernacled with.
It’s all that He has desired since the beginning.
Crumble the defensive walls around our hearts
and teach our hearts to sing the songs of healing.
Create in us Your fearless vulnerability and ever-reaching love.
In the Name of our Wounded Healer who catapulted himself into our fragility–
to walk in our dust
and eat at our table,
to laugh with us
and weep with us–
our Warrior who came not wearing a suit of armor to protect Himself from us–
our pain, our anger, our rage–
but inhabited the ultra-vulnerable sweet-soft skin of a newborn
and lives to continually bear our flesh into His Father’s unapproachable Light,