Evergreen Day 5: A Whole Heart
It was the Sunday after my aunt passed. Our dryer was full of forgotten and wrinkled laundry. My daughter — with yogurt in her hair and a flame inside her heart — toddled around and single-handedly destroyed every cabinet and corner of the house. I sat paralyzed at our antique table underneath a mountain of cookbooks, wondering who would ever finish my grocery list? Who would ever cook the meals? My head hung limp and I cried, confessing later to my husband (who does more around the home sometimes than me) that “all the normal stuff just feels impossible.”
I have a beautiful life where dreams are nurtured and flowers grow, but somehow I found myself here, decorated with the red flags of burnout: obsessed with the negative, sequestered on my sad, lonely island, misinterpreting every task as sacrifice, reacting rather than responding, feeling disconnected, on edge, overwhelmed, and irritable.
I know what you must be thinking: “Lady, you’re tired. Cry me a river, take two Advil, get a full eight hours, and call me in the morning.” And trust me, I’ve been there, but that specific version of rest wasn’t resonating with me this time. I felt rested, truly, in the sense that my physical needs were being met, spiritually I was being fed, my marriage was intimate, and so on. I was just waterlogged and joyless in our domestic day-to-day, and I felt guilty that I couldn’t be grateful instead. Surely I’m not the only soul on earth to know what it’s like to be rested and still burdened.
David Whyte says, “The antidote to exhaustion is not rest: it’s wholeheartedness.”
Oof. As I’ve been teasing apart the nuance of that statement, I’ve come up with one question, which is how do we cultivate a whole heart? Brené Brown offers us an insightful answer: “Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
If I’ve learned any one thing from Life School so far, it’s that we will spend it swinging from broken-hearted to wholehearted, and if we make peace with that inevitability, it lessens every blow. It makes what feels final just a temporary blip. It makes the sweetness sweeter. We re-emerge each time with new empathy and understanding. We are able to encourage those whose spirits are crushed or whose hopes are deferred because we have sincerely seen the other side and know that there is more joy, more freedom, more fullness to be had. We experience tension and then release. We are driven by our values rather than our obligations. We are fulfilled because we are already and completely loved.
No amount of rest or self-care or quiet time is going to keep us intact while the world spins madly around us. We are not meant to remove ourselves from that reality and neither are we meant to give ourselves in fractions. It is only when we devote ourselves to grace, when we open ourselves back up after grief and despair, it is only then that we can walk the path marked out for us with full and abundant and undivided hearts.
Verses to Read
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God Disciplines His Children
4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13“Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Warning and Encouragement
14Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
17Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19The Sovereign Lordis my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.