Hello my old heart
How have you been
Are you still there inside my chest?
I’ve been so worried
You’ve been so still
Barely beating at all
~The Oh Hellos, Hello My Old Heart
When I was a little girl I used to look through the magazines my Grandma would save for me and for hours I would clip out pictures I liked, read the articles over and over, and dog ear my favorite pages. I was a reader who loved anything from Women’s Day to Reader’s Digest–anything I could get my hands on. And it must have been in one of those magazines, that made me long for a flower box around a tree. Not just a regular old flower box, but one that surrounded a tree and also doubled as a bench.
My Godfather, my Nino, who never had children of his own but treated all of us like his, built one for me. I loved to plant flowers in it and use the box bench to climb up into the tree to read books. One year, I chose a mini yellow rose bush to plant. It came in a tiny pot, so small I imagined it was a flower meant for fairies, with its delicate yellow petals and thorns so small they couldn’t hurt you if you squeezed them. I planted it carefully and over the next few years we watched as it blossomed into such a huge plant that it overtook the flower box, spilling over the sides, small yellow roses everywhere. If it had been left in the tiny pot it came in, it would have stayed small and insignificant. Instead, what had once been a dainty plant had become magnificent.
Isn’t that what happens to all of us? When we are in the place we are meant to be. Surrounded by the people who are supposed to be there. Don’t we blossom and stretch our wings? And when we aren’t in the right space for us, surrounded by the wrong people, or filled with our own doubts and insecurities–don’t we stay small? Our own thorns poking those around us because we can’t even stop hurting ourselves, let alone the people who get near us.
It was around that time when my Nino built my flower box, that I was hurt by some friends. I was the same age my oldest daughter is now–in the fourth grade. To this day I remember how much I hurt to be excluded by them, and despite their actions I clung to them, practically begging them to include me. For nearly a year, I would come home from school, my tears would burn my face and the ache in my heart whispered to me: Build a wall, protect your heart and don’t get hurt like this again. I became uncertain of myself and started to wither, my thorny heart started pushing my good friends away as I tried harder and harder for the other girls to like me. My mom’s wise words couldn’t reach me: Mija, these aren’t real friends. Real friends don’t hurt you like this.
Time heals. But the scar is still there.
And once you are scarred, you can run your hand over the old wound and you are reminded of old hurts.
This old heart of mine carries those scars and when it happened again, as an adult, I could hear my mom’s wise words echoing–Real friends don’t hurt you like this. Old hurts came back to the surface and I started to lose focus of what is important: the people who love me and the people I love, the space that makes me feel alive, and instead of noticing all the goodness God has created– I started feeling dark and ugly inside. I wondered out loud to a friend, What does God want me to do? I’m trying to forgive them but I feel like they keep going out of their way to hurt me when I’m trying to move on! But I wasn’t, really. I was still hoping, deep down, that they would be my friends.
This old heart has known all along what to do. Forgiveness isn’t conditional. I said I would forgive but only if they wouldn’t hurt me again. And they did. So I snatched my forgiveness back, holding all those old feelings that were exposed, feeling raw and bitter.
Last week I went out for a run, feeling grateful that my knee was finally starting to feel like its old self and I saw a yellow rose. I was taken back to my childhood and the hurt I felt then. And I remembered words I had written not so long ago about focusing on those who love us and care for us. That is when I feel most vibrant and alive. Not when I’m wallowing in self pity over women who were never really my friends anyway. I knew forgiving meant exactly that: Forgiving and moving on. I knew my question to my friend had already been answered:
What did God want me to do?
The same thing I tell my children to do when their hearts are heavy: To hand it all over to Him. Not just bits and pieces, but all of it. Instead of trying to solve it on my own, I needed to pray for a softened heart for myself, a forgiving heart, a heart that unconditionally lets go, to pray for all mothers and their daughters–that we model to them how to treat each other. I pray for not just those who hurt, but for those who are hurt–that they heal and don’t let the sin of anger enter their hearts.
Surrounding myself with love.
And when I found myself giving it all to God, I found myself growing again. Happiness, joy, love, self-worth, a giving heart–all of that is found when I’m in the place I’m meant to be. Where I can stretch my wings and see the goodness of others, instead of being curled up tightly, stunting my own growth by not letting myself be in the space and surrounded by the people who are meant to be with me.
By giving it all to God,
This old heart of mine will not be guarded.
This old heart of mine will not be bitter.
This old heart of mine will not be angry.
This old heart will grow in forgiveness and surround itself with the love of those who God placed on this Earth to love me.
Nothing lasts forever
Some things aren’t meant to be
But you’ll never find the answer
Until you set your old heart free
Never Give Up,
Will you join me? Whatever is hurting you, will you give it to God and forgive?
Unsure of the original author, photo credit here.