There’s a song by Paul Simon called, “Graceland” that has been a favorite of mine for years. It’s a funky little song on an equally funky CD that for some reason I love. It came into my life right after my Grandmother died which was a very long time ago. Like a lot of songs it’s one line in particular that caught my attention. I can play it over and over and never get sick of it because it means so much to me. The line is “Losing love is like a window in your heart. Everybody sees you’re blown apart. Everybody sees the wind blow.”
Of course writing it doesn’t have nearly the impact that hearing it does but if you’re careful and take each word to heart it can mean something. I probably wouldn’t have locked onto this if it hadn’t been for my pastor at the time. I was leaving church the week after my Grandma died and she asked me how I was doing and I just stared at her with tears in my eyes at a total loss for words. She sweetly put her arm around me and said, “It’s like a hole in your heart opens and the wind blows through it – right?” I could only nod feebly in agreement thankful she could see the gaping hole.
I was very close to my Grandmother. She was an old lady but her death was unexpected and for me premature. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t get to say goodbye. She was such a constant presence in my life I wondered how everyday would feel without having some word from her. A call, a card, a note, something from her to remind me she was thinking about me and loved me. I was devastated and somehow Pastor Lynn and Paul Simon were able to give me the words to describe what I was feeling. I’ve offered those same thoughts to others in their grieving over the years because I still can’t think of a better way to express it. Losing love is indeed like a window in your heart and when those that can see you are blown apart minister to you it is precious.
What I’ve struggled with in this metaphor and what I struggle with in life is understanding the purpose the hole serves. Intellectually I can come up with a few ideas but at the heart-level an open window with the wind blowing through is one you want to shut. It can be so messy with everything looking and feeling disheveled as the wind scatters your thoughts, your feelings, and for that matter your whole life.
This week I was asking God for some sort of meditation that would help me make peace with the hole in my heart. I don’t think anything going on in my life is unique to just me. We live in a world with lots of walking wounded. Anyone you meet is likely to have something that has broken open a hole in their heart. They might not admit it but if you peeled back the layers you would find a hole that has been covered up. My sixteen year old was brave enough to uncover one of his this week and I was so thankful he did. I could sense something hurt but I didn’t know what. When he was ready to finally share his feelings with me I was able to share mine and we found a wonderful place where we were holding each other up.
His sharing though only increased my desire to find something that would help move me toward understanding. I kept asking in my prayers for something to paint a picture that would comfort me. Why Lord do we have to endure the holes? A crack, a knick, a bruise, a scrape aren’t those enough? I certainly think so.
My word picture came when the gardener arrived this week to trim the Evergreens that separate my yard from my neighbors. I’m allergic to my lovely trees so it’s something I have to get help with. They had not been trimmed before the snow arrived this winter and the weather was finally warm enough for the work to be done. As he was sizing up the job with one of the trees the gardener asked me if I was sure I wanted him to prune it. He pointed out that the snow had collected for so long in one layer of branches they had been damaged. If he shaped the tree a hole would be created and I might not like the way it looks. I chuckled because he knows me too well. I drive by this tree about six times a day and my eye is certain to go right to the hole and I will definitely notice it and not like the way it looks.
The answer to his question seemed obvious though. The tree needs to be pruned for its long term health. All five trees look beautiful after 16 years precisely because they have been so well cared for. I realize this tree in particular had a rough winter hung up by some snow but I couldn’t let that sway me it still had to be pruned. It’s a tough-love-for-trees kind of deal. So the tree was trimmed and the hole is obvious and you know what I didn’t like it at all until a couple days later.
I was walking down my driveway to get the paper and I saw the hole and grimaced but then I saw a lovely robin below it. I probably wouldn’t have noticed much beyond that except that she was picking up a twig and it seemed to be a struggle. Then before I knew it she flew into the hole because she’s building a nest in it. Hooray instant enthusiasm! Nothing could make me happier for my tree or the mama bird.
I love nesting. Every spring I get so excited to see where the mama’s will find a spot and make a home in my yard and this tree is the perfect one. It’s high enough off the ground to protect her nest from a stray cat or dog but there’s still easy access to the lawn for worms and such. She can see out but we can barely see in. The wind will be able to blow through without blowing the nest to the ground. It’s a poetically perfect little spot for new life to be nurtured and all I could think as I watched this busy mom was that the same holds true for the hole in my heart and perhaps yours. When the time is right something will nest in it and grow. The hole might not close and it might not be filled but something can make a home in it. Perhaps it will be mercy, compassion, grace or forgiveness. All should be welcome in any heart.
Pruning is a part of the life of a believer but we tend to flinch at it because it hurts. As thinking feeling beings we pull away from pain. A tree of course doesn’t have that ability but since we can we do and it’s our resistance that causes us to lose sight of the purpose pruning serves. The lesson we’re to take from it was apparently important or Jesus wouldn’t have talked about it with his disciples. In the book of John we hear Jesus say, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Thinking about this scripture and the nest under construction in my tree prompted a new picture to form in my mind. The hole wasn’t created because the limbs were weak and couldn’t bear the weight of the snow. Just the opposite is true. They held up the snow as long as they had to and stretched into a new shape doing so. This depending on how you choose to look at it is not a bad thing. Now after pruning the tree will gracefully adapt and cradle new life. It’s all part of the process.
What’s key to see in the picture Jesus paints is that it’s the fruitful vine that gets pruned. The unfruitful we’re told are completely cut off but the fruitful are pruned in order for more fruit to be produced. It’s not a sign of weakness that a hole is created by taking something away from us which is what pruning accomplishes.
It’s also not expected this will be painless but we’re told that new life will come if we remain in Him. Jesus uses the word “remain” eleven times in John 15 to emphasize his point when he teaches about the vine and the branches. If we stay in our relationship with God new fruit will come through our losses. We’re told no branch no matter how much or how little pruning it’s received can bear fruit apart from the Father and that we have been chosen exactly for that reason to go and bear fruit.
Sitting on my step looking at my tree this morning waiting for a glimpse of the mother bird I asked myself to think about every loss I’ve ever endured and what grew out of it. Some of the losses I didn’t like thinking about but when I pushed myself I had to admit that in every case good fruit was born from it. I wrestle with questions about heartbreak only because I don’t like losing anything and I don’t want to admit that it might be good for me. However, loss in whatever form it takes is a good thing when it creates a window of opportunity that we will allow to stay open.
In that open space God’s spirit and the evidence of it can blow through our lives and plant seeds of new life. It takes time for those seeds to grow but as they do the hole will close and something new will take flight. In my trees’ case it will hopefully be several baby robins. In my own life I have no idea what it will be but I hope it’s something just as sweet to see.