It hits me hard whenever I walk past a boarded up home. The way my mind works, I don’t just see the building. I feel the dreams of the people who once lived there. I smell the excitement of that first lawn cutting and hear the laughter of good times gone by. I wonder what happened to the home to bring it to this state?
A house is so much more than a place to lay your head at night to be sheltered from the elements. A home has to be cared for and maintained. At times, the home has to be made ready for visitors, a place of welcome. Yet, when a home is boarded up, it can’t provide all of these things even if the boards protect the physical structure because those boards interfere with the function of the home.
This story came to me as I struggled with a particularly difficult time of my life. It was a time when I had to look at how I was living and make some brutally honest admissions to myself. I have had a lot of pains and dissapointments in my life leaving some scars as reminders that this thing is not a cake walk. While I know that I’m not the only one who “goes through” as the elders used to say, I have not always been the best at letting those disappointments roll off my back. The older I get, the harder it becomes to keep my heart soft and continue to extend to other people. The world even provides you with logic and reasoning for pulling back from others. We all know the formula…
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
This is a conventional wisdom that we pass on almost without thinking. This expression like so many others provides excellent materials for the boarding up of our hearts. If I’m honest, I’ve become a helluva craftswoman making beautifully ornate boards to protect my heart from feeling the disappointment of the “friends” who I realized just weren’t that into me or the people who only wanted me around for what I could “do” for them. There were boards to protect me from the realities of church life as an adult and how much of the world you really see up in God’s house. There were boards that went up to protect myself from the falling down of my childhood heroes. I swung my hammer to protect myself from heartbreak of the most vicious kind and kept my hands busy putting up board after board after board pulling my real self further and further away from others. I told myself I was learning how to play the game, that this is what I needed to do to succeed and get ahead. The world is no place after all for the tenderhearted.
But here’s the thing.
When we board up our hearts, we cut ourselves off from our brothers and sisters. We isolate ourselves and we run the risk of falling out of our purpose. We face the very real danger of becoming a sad little house that people pass by and wonder, “What happened here? How did something with such beauty and promise end up this way?”
We need others in our lives. We crave kinship, it’s just how we are designed. We even see this need for connection evolving into the social networking of the internet which brings to mind another famous quote:
No man is an island unto himself.
We are physically born out of another person and when we die we return to the earth and literally feed back into the cycle of life. Physically, we are never truly alone because we are surrounded by life, but if we don’t take care of our homes by keeping our hearts healthy, soft and strong, we will end up an empty shell, without purpose and lonely as hell. It’s not easy and I struggle every day not to cut off people who present themselves as deserts that just seek to suck you dry and move on to the next one. I have to pray for discernment of the spirit when and how to act in my purpose. Believe me when I say this, I’m still a work in progress but everyday with God’s help, I’m working on the remodel project of my life so that when people walk by me, they won’t see a lonely shell of a woman. Instead, they will see someone full of light and love who is ready to welcome them into the knowledge of how they can also get their house in order.
~Marta C. Youngblood