I packed my bag carefully and slipped out of the house. No one saw me leave. I was running away. Straight into a blizzard, but that didn't stop me. The snow wrapped around me like a fuzzy blanket, blinding me to the world around me. There was only white patterned wind everywhere I looked. Bundled from head to toe, I could know the storm and not be harmed. I trudged on, feeling my way to an old lilac bush. Nestling in its branches I formed a cocoon of stillness and calm.
In patience and expectation I waited for the frantic searchers to come find me. I waited until the cold seeped into my bones and ice formed on my eyelashes. No one came. Light gradually crept away and night was upon me. Clearly no one cared enough to come and bring me home.
I slipped back into the house as quietly as I had left.
"Wash up for supper!" I heard my mother's voice calling me, calling all of us. "Come to the table!" How welcome the voice sounded, how warm and familiar.
Suddenly the light came on and I realized that no one knew what was going on inside of my heart. I had abandoned myself to the storm, isolated, silent and invisible. I came back to the table, noticing for the first time the place I had been given.
As a community claiming to be in the body of Christ we are called to notice each other's presence or absence. We are called to discern and name the condition of our hearts. We are called to listen to the hearts of others. All too often we assume we know the hearts of others and we don't even bother to know our own. Part of growing up for me meant that I had to learn to be honest about the condition of my heart. It was not fair to expect that my parents could read my mind. I was not willing to share what was in my heart and in my silence I denied them the possibility of any response.
We can keep our hearts hidden and protected, but they still will be broken. We can sit on the sidelines and watch others take the risks and do the work. Or we can open our hearts to knowing, to trusting and risking, to weeping and laughing, to salvation.
God came to Mary asking to be birthed, asking her to hold in her womb the baby, Jesus, and bear him into life. There is no heart more open and tender than the heart of a baby. There is no creature on earth that is more vulnerable. May our hearts be so willing, so free, so tender, so strong, so open. May we recognize the gift we are given and the gift we receive.
God's heart has been offered. Has yours?
The Rev. Beth Benson is pastor of Peace UCC in St. Paul, Minn. Focus on Faith is a readerwritten column to help others grow in their faith