I was reading a book a few weeks ago. It was a quick read, and I finished it in one morning. If you're interested, it's "A Heart Like His; Making Space for God's Love in Your Life"
It started as an experiment with a small group of church ladies from the same neighborhood. Here is the basic idea: When we feel loved by the Lord, it is easier to treat others with love. The experiment is to "work it backwards". In other words, try treating others with love in order to feel the Lord's love in a bigger way.
This sounds easier than it is. Perhaps our society has made us too cynical, too suspicious of others. And it is hard to "trust" our hearts with someone else. Here are some more concepts:
The heart is a physical organ, but it is also the center of our emotional and spiritual life. It's hard to understand, and yet undeniable.
Think about it... when you feel happy or feel the spirit or feel love, doesn't your heart seem to swell? It's like it's doubling in size; enlarged and full. And if you are scared or angry, it feels small, like it has moved to the back, behind your chest wall. So now for "the experiment", quoted straight from the book:
1) I will be more aware of the condition of my heart, and with that awareness seek to keep it more open towards others.
2) I will do this in the normal course of my life, in other words, not feel pressured to put any extra activities into my day- no extra visits, no extra casseroles, etc.
3) I will notice the Spirit and be willing to honestly report what did or didn't happen. In doing so, I will try to understand my personal stumbling blocks and strengths.
Now, the group of ladies would meet and share their "experiences". I've decided to do this, and to use my blog as a forum to report anything that did or did not happen. It's not going to be a weekly thing or monthly thing or anything that is scheduled; just when I feel prompted.
But, here is what I noticed so far in just the first week I have tried this. Being more aware of the "condition of my heart" (the opening or closing of it) has also made me keen to other things around me. I noticed the beautiful mountains all over again, and the sunset, and the wildflowers, etc.
And when I look at these things I can't help but think, "This is another way I know that God loves me. He is allowing me to enjoy His nature; His beauty."
Two things to report.
I was sitting in the temple last week and the girl sitting beside me was a young newlywed. She was very attractive, though in a simple way. I tend to feel very inadequate around people I do not know, whom I think are beautiful. She just seemed like the kind of girl who had everything. I did not measure up. So, as a defense mechanism, I packed up my heart and moved it to the back of my chest wall. Even though we were both at the temple for learning and worshipping and it is a loving environment, I closed my heart. A few times, I caught her looking at me out of the corner of my eye. She would smile, I would look away and pretend not to notice her. Why did I do this? I don't know. I guess it's a natural thing to want to gravitate AWAY from people whom we think are not like us. Anyway, after the second time she did this, and after the second time I pulled away, I caught myself. I became consciously aware that my heart was getting smaller, closing up and moving to the back. I could actually feel this happening. Thankfully, the young-and-beaming-with-happiness-newlywed girl did not give up on me. A third time, she looked at me and smiled. I forced myself to smile back. I felt nervous. I don't know why. I'm not a shy person, per say. Well, afterwards, as I was preparing to leave, I had been thinking some of my own thoughts (dangerous, I know), and my emotions got the best of me and I could not help but start to cry. I was already headed to get my things, so I didn't want to stop there. I continued walking towards my belongings, and the flood gates were opened by this point, and I was pretty much crying uncontrollably. I walked passed her; the young-beaming-with-happiness-newlywed girl that hadn't given up on me. And another exchange of smiles (me, through my tears), and I felt my heart open, and move to the front, and I knew; I knew that God did love me. I recognized Love, probably in a bigger way than I had in a long time.
My friend and I went to eat a late dinner at a greasy-spoon Friday night. The waitress was bubbly and tried to do a good job. She had thick mascara and a piercing or two where I would never think to put any. Nonetheless, I just wanted to be nice to her. I was choosing to treat her with "love" (or what the book refers to as "Christianity 101"). I was friendly, and smiled at her, and in return we got good service. Afterwards, my friend said, "Something wasn't right with that waitress." I knew he was talking about her teeth. Cuz truly, something wasn't right with her teeth. But I realized then, the very moment I decided to "open my heart" I didn't really notice anything else but her happiness, or inner-beauty. The piercings and other markings didn't bother me at all., and actually seemed to sort of dissappear.
This "experiment" has given me but a small glimpse of perhaps how our Savior sees us. He doesn't see us as the "pierced", the "broken", the "ugly" or even "the young-beaming-with-happiness-newlywed girl". He sees us only as daughters and sons of God.
I think the biggest brain connection for me was to really become aware of how my heart changes; truly changes, physiologically; and to relate that to my actions.
I want to love and be loved, and not just by humanity, but by someone for the way he also loves me. I can't help but think and feel this is somehow all connected for me; that one journey will be dependent on the other within my life-long journey.