People who celebrate anniversaries and graduations oftentimes have an open house. In the paper or by email or face book they let it be known that they are going to celebrate their anniversary and all their friends, neighbors, and relatives are welcome to come to their open house. There will be sandwiches and cake and much laughter and sharing of memories.
But would you be willing to have an open house in which you opened your heart and your life to some of life’s hardest experiences? Would you welcome cancer and heart disease and unexpected tragedies to teach you about things like pain and loss and resilience?
Last week I attended a symposium on aging and all the things that come with this time in our lives. One quote I want to share with you was written by an author by the name of Florida Pier Scott-Maxwell in her book “The Measure of Our Days”. She says, “You have neat, tight expectations of what life ought to give you, but you won’t get it. That isn’t what life does. Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you. It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.”
Isn’t it true that we do have tight expectations of what we want our lives to be. We work very hard to put together the kind of life we want to have. We create our nice safe cocoons where the wind and the storms are held at bay. And then without warning or asking our permission some illness or tragedy shatters our cocoon and leaves us shocked and enraged. No one calls us to see if we are free next Wednesday evening so we can be told that we have stage four cancer. We get no time to prepare or think about the implications. Like people after a tornado has passed we crawl out of the wreckage of our homes and we try to comprehend what has just happened. Numb with shock we start sorting through the wreckage and hauling debris to the curb.
When the seed is planted in the ground no one tells the seed, “You are going into a very dark place. You are going to get wet. You are going to get warmed up. You are going to swell and burst your shell.” All you know is that when you go through this process of being planted you discover there is life inside you and a green shoot breaks the surface of the earth and you grow and bloom.
I don’t think we will ever see anyone announcing an open house in which they invite adversity to come into their life but do keep your heart open when life shatters your heart. Keep the image of the seed being shattered in your mind so you understand that what is happening to you is not to destroy you but to make you stronger and wiser and more compassionate than you were before life shattered you.