Hardness of Heart

“But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.'” – Mark 10:5

Hardness of heart is a spiritual matter in love relationships, divorces, between siblings – and in the garden.  Often mid-summer I make a mistake that turns up just about now, right before the first snow.  I pull out the morning glories that didn’t produce, like a cruel boss does when she fires a worker who gets behind on his numbers.  One grower in Florida made this point quite well to me, as we stood in his tomato field. “Sure, Reverend, I could pay these workers more per bushel.  But have you any idea how many stand right behind them, willing to pick the tomatoes for what I pay?”

Like that boss, I have lots of morning glories.  A new non-blooming strain has shown up in my garden, right alongside the blue and pink and purple and tri-color beauties.  I pull the non-bloomers off their stakes in the summer, leaving the colorful to dine and twine.  

When I look at the morning glory stakes in October, after the first frost, I see nothing left but the twine of the vine.  And that twine is often beautiful, symmetrically attached to its stake, circle by circle.  In October I get a good look at my summer mistake.  Some stakes are barren.    I had become a formulaic gardener, one who privileges bloom over shape, like a baseball fan who only likes home runs.  Plus, who knows when a new strain of morning glory is going to erupt from the genetic modifications clearly afoot?  What about next year or two years from now?  What hardness of heart cost me the patience of love?

Why bother with these useless thoughts in fall, the season of preparation, the time when the light fades early?  Because you can’t go forward well without looking back well.  You can’t prepare without evaluation.  You also never prepare in a vacuum but in something more like a vacuum bag, one full of dust and the left behind and the no longer appreciated or that second earring that had been lost a long time.  

Jesus was advising his disciples about the rules around divorce.  I wonder, sometimes, why my first marriage ended.  I even wonder if it should have ended.  The rules about hardness of heart are made for people like me.


O God, let me value bloom but even more send me to the twine in the vine, the hope in fall, the promise that is knocking on the door of our garden, even on a cold, dark night.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.