OMID SAFI is a columnist for On Being. He also is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. He writes . . .
“Every heart has a wall around it, a wall that protects, yet also keeps out. Every heart is a walled garden . . . . Yet I wonder how often the wall becomes a fortress, keeping out the very ones who are meant to reach us, nurture us, love us?
“Let us praise softness. Let us seek a heart that is not hard, but soft. Let us seek a heart that is not hardened like dry land, but a soft soil tilled over again and again. To break open a soil, parched dry and cracked, takes effort. How much more effort it takes to till a heart open after it has been dried up, walled up, stored away. How patient must this love be, to till, water, [and] break open.“
Living as Apprentice of Jesus requires seeking a soft heart. Tilling a heart that has been wounded or betrayed or ignored requires work. It’s part of the process of becoming a wounded healer. Jesus mastered the tilling process early on and modeled it his entire life. His disciples disrespected his decisions, schemed to have a leadership role in his “kingdom,” robbed his ministry’s coffers, betrayed him to religious authorities, denied knowing him, hid after his death, and doubted his resurrection.
But because the heart of Jesus was soft and forgiving, the disciples opened their hearts to be “tilled” by the Holy Spirit. Over and over they brought the message of love and forgiveness to their world. As an Apprentice, I, too, must allow my heart to be tilled and my life to become soft, patient, and inclusive.