Back from my writers workshop, I returned to swimming sixteen laps in the apartment pool and watching my hands gliding through the water, under the reflection of the deep blue sky. My body felt the chilly water after a slight cool front had passed. My ears heard some meditative music playing through the patio sound system. The rustling of the breezes through the oak’s leaves caught my attention. And a mockingbird gently alighting on the electrical wires caught my eye.
Suddenly my heart filled, and opened up, and my heart let the world in: the refugees flooding across Eastern Europe, the immigrants working for our apartment complex, whose names and language I am just learning, some new friends with their old suffering. The whole world was welcome.
Then I began to wonder how the same guy who was so totally overwhelmed by the local needs, after our watery disaster a decade ago, could now be welcoming the whole world in. Something bigger than me was at work. Something beyond me was ushering me into my call from long ago, to a life of prayer for the world.
Such prayer is daunting, too much to handle, more than I can bear. Such a prayer call turns out to be the act of welcoming this world into my heart. Just that. And even that is something I cannot manage.
What happened in the morning, after the swim, simply happened. My heart did open, throw out the welcome mat, without so much as asking my permission. It didn’t check with me first to see if I had any extra room in there. It didn’t even raise it’s hand to ask a question about heartfulness from a theoretical perspective. My heart just opened on its own. My heart came to its own decision. I was simply an observer.
Welcoming the world is a fabulous calling, and terrible too. If I let you all into my heart then I will feel your pain. Hopefully, I will also get to share some of your joys to make up for the hardest parts. And though I guess I could decide to kick you out of there at some point, (the jury is still out on that one), for now I am choosing to stay with you, with your hearts in my heart.
Pretty soon I will want to turn away in self-protection. That tug seems to be built in. But self-protection never really works does it? When I try to separate myself from all of you, all I get is separateness, which is mostly lonely, and kind of empty. So at least for now, and unless I can figure a way out of this, it looks like I am stuck with you all in my heart.
Full disclosure here: I didn’t ask for this life. I didn’t wake up and say, “I am such a great guy, so let me welcome the world into my heart today.” You all just landed there this morning. This happened to me. So for now, until I decide to change my mind, if I even can, welcome world.