Everywhere the rabbi went, crowds of people flocked. Some were curious; some actively seeking truth; many dissatisfied with their lives having been left cold by religion. Then there were those who were ailing – the lame, blind, paralyzed, and demonized, and those who cared for them.
But he was not in that crowd – his ailment was hidden, interior. His condition was in reality far worse than not being able to walk or see. He had a shriveled heart. Not the physical organ – that was healthy, beating as it should. His innermost being, his soul, his core, was withered.
He did not know why. Perhaps some intergenerational curse. Some malformation in the spirit realm. Maybe a lack of nurturing from parents too busy trying to survive. Perhaps the withered heart was caused by a series of rejections, hurts, losses over time. Perhaps his interior had scarred over.
Whatever the reason, he was incapable of receiving or giving love. His heart was walled off; his soul shut down. No not completely – trickles of love flowed in and out. His eyes still welled with tears on occasions, and he felt a strange tenderness at times. But real love is sacrificial; it is costly; it is vulnerable. Real love gets you crucified.
Perhaps that was the problem – fear – fear of being wounded, fear of being rebuffed; maybe he was clinging to a false self so tightly as to not know who he was, or is, or could be.
The opposite of love is fear.
He was not expecting anything more than a semi-comforting reading of scripture accompanied by some nice prayers. He sat, as usual, in the synagogue on Shabbat thinking about not much.
The leader, recognizing an itinerant
rabbi, handed him the scroll to read. He stood, looked about intently, and asked me to stand up. His eyes seemed to pierce right through me. Did the rabbi know of my inner condition? How could he? Nonplussed, I stood.
“The son of man is lord of Shabbat. Stretch forth that withered heart, that old wineskin of a soul that won’t hold love, that is so afraid to love.”
I stretched out my dried and withered heart toward Jesus. It leapt to life, warmed, glowed. Flood gates opened. Love poured in. Love flowed out.
Yes, wounds come, some self-inflicted, some from life, some from friends and fellow believers.
Thank God for the privilege of entering the fellowship of God’s sufferings.
I live in the heart of the Divine.