I have been thinking about living more mindfully and praying for the grace to be more attentive. The other day, a memory surfaced from my time in l’Arche, and in the spirit of mindfulness, I paid attention.
For fifteen years, one woman had been in charge of the house where I lived; she had left shortly before I moved in. The first time I washed the kitchen floor, it was apparent that she valued a polished floor. Over the years, fresh wax had been poured on the floor without first removing the old wax, and the floor was covered in a thick wax build-up.
So I bought a can of wax stripper and went to work.
I poured the thick liquid on a small section in one corner of the kitchen and got down on my hands and knees to scrape off the softened wax with a putty knife. It was not easy, and I soon resigned myself to the fact that getting back to the bare linoleum would take a while.
Over the following days, weeks and months, I spent hours removing the old wax—layer by layer and inch by inch, working my way across the kitchen. I found myself passing the time in prayerful reflection, as I repeated the steps of pouring wax stripper, waiting for it to work and then scraping off the old wax.
Eventually the whole floor was stripped of old wax, revealing that what had been hidden looked brand new. The layers of wax had protected the linoleum.
As I thought of this memory, I asked God if it held a new message for me. After a few days, I began to wonder if the wax build-up represents layers I need to strip away in my life now, and I asked God what needs to be softened and scraped away in me.
And then another memory surfaced from a time shortly after I left l’Arche, a memory of falling in love and giving my heart away to a man I trusted completely. He betrayed my trust and broke my heart. It was not the first time my heart had been broken, but I wanted it to be the last. I never wanted to feel that kind of deep hurt again, and, in an effort to protect my heart, I walled it in.
That wall has done a pretty good job of keeping my heart safe for many years.
Reflecting on it now, though, I can see how walling off my heart is like the wax build-up on the kitchen floor—and I wonder what my heart would be like if layers of self-protection were stripped away.
These days, I am preparing for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I can’t help but think of the invitation to love as Jesus loved—with a heart that is open and trusting.
Perhaps I am being invited to soften and remove what keeps my heart closed off—to risk and to love.