Monday, July 09, 2007

A Secret Garden

There are so many songs about love, and one I was listening to this morning asked the question "How can you mend a broken heart?". Thank you Al Green, you're awesome. But in all these songs, no one ever sings about guarding your heart. Why is that? Maybe because it's such a vague concept. Maybe it's because no one who is going to write a song about love sees any use in guarding against it. Yet, it is a concept that has plagued me all weekend, well hell, most of the week long.

How do you guard your heart against love? Some would ask, why would you want to in the first place? Well, my personal answer to that is exactly that, personal. But let's just say, hypothetically speaking, if a certain someone where to stay sane amidst a friendship with someone they dearly loved, they better guard! Guard, guard, guard!! Like Shaq, I better guard!

In Song of Songs, the young woman known as Beloved charges her companions "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." (Song of Songs 2:7) Three times, this pursued, adored woman warns her friends to guard their heart until the time is right. Just why, oh why, does she never say how?

So, I'm convinced of the necessity, I am willing to do what it takes, what's the problem then? Well, this weekend I found out that all I thought I knew about how to guard against my own heart was dead wrong. I realized that all the old tricks that I thought helped me do it flat out failed. Yeah, they don't work so much anymore. Maybe it's not the old tricks that don't work so much as I'm just no good at them. I think I need a lesson from the Solomon's girl!
Part of guarding one's heart, I think, is to keep it behind a wall. A secret garden as it were. Then only the one God wants to let in, will ever get to experience or see or know what's really there. I want to be guarded, and mysterious, and so compartmentalized with love that I can put it in it's place, waiting only to be opened when it's the right time.
I try and have tried hard. Despite my best efforts, I think I have failed miserably, because at the end of the day, I am awash with feelings I've tried to stifle and scourge. When all is said and done, I feel like a labyrinth of rose bushes, a garden begging to be walked through, where the scent of flowers lingers on the air for anyone with a mile to get a faint whiff of. So open and honest about my feelings, I feel like everyone around knows what's in the garden, what's in my heart. It's an aroma I can't hide, I have no poker face after all. And if I can't hide it, you better believe there's not a lot of hope in guarding against it.

Now to give myself some credit, I'm a lot better at this than I used to be. I know I have learned to keep a pretty straight face and hide most of my emotion, and that seems to help. Unfortunately, sometimes I make the enthusiastic leap to the opposite side of the spectrum, where I feign hostility and annoyance in an attempt to hide the love and adoration I feel. Not the smartest move, but most of the time I think I keep a pretty neutral facade. These tricks and ploys do nothing for my actual heart however. Though they may hide what's going on in it to the outside world, inside my heart is still asking "how? huh?"

Contemplating the warnings of the Beloved do give me some insight, though. You see, when I read her warnings, I realized that everything preceding them was an admission of her own powerlessness to the love she felt for her partner. It was time spent with him, and dwelling on his virtues, it was the thought that she had lost him, and then the joy she felt at finding him again, then finally it was just being in his presence and experiencing love with him that led her, each and every time to warn her friends to guard their hearts. It's not indifference that shows us the need to guard against love at an improper time, it's the actual love itself. If we have never felt love so deeply, then why would we see the need to guard against it?

The maiden's words are beautiful actually. "Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love." (2:5) She truly felt the impact of her own emotions, to the point where it weakened her physically. Wow! In wisdom though, she saw, in that powerlessness, the necessity for only letting it occur at the God appointed moment. Her reaction to that realization was one of philanthropic and sisterly love, a warning to her sisters, not just to be on the defense against their feelings, but to take the offense and not stir the rousing beast.

What I learn from her, and her words is this. If you don't want to feel it, then don't put yourself in situations where you will have opportunity to know it. That's the offense, and that, I think, is where I screwed up. I have tried, and had some God given success, in this area, thanks a little bit to an adage I like to call "Out of sight, out of mind". But what happens when in sight becomes in mind and that turns to in love? What then?

Well, honestly, I really do wish I knew. I'm not much wiser than any of the song writers, or poets, despite the warnings I've just read. All I can say is it's an ongoing battle, and a tough one at that. But I am grateful there are verses like those in Song of Songs, to inspire me. I am grateful for the power of the Holy Spirit to coax and fill me. And I am grateful that it is not something I have to deal with every day, just on the occasional weekend and holiday and what not.

Most of all, though, I know this - I am grateful to have the capacity to love, and for the lessons it affords me in patience, perseverance and trust. I can't offer any better advice than anyone else, but I can say this - guarding your heart is a lesson worth learning and worth living out. And like a fragrant flower, love it is something best left to open and bloom naturally in God's time, any sooner and it will lack the sweet aroma of perfect timing. Just as another favorite poet once mused, love found in a place earned is like a secret garden where, if you're lucky, "She'll look at you and smile, and her eyes will say, she's got a secret garden, where everything you want, where everything you need, will always stay, a million miles away."

1 comment:

Anne Marie said...

Thank you for this... Just what God has been trying to get throught to me lately :)