Lift up your hearts


Do you ever say something you don’t mean? I do. I do almost every day, perhaps. I’m thinking particularly about a time that comes about halfway through Mass, after I’ve been sitting and standing and kneeling and praying. Saying and hearing words I’ve said and heard for years. It’s routine and comfortable and comforting and rote.


Lift up your hearts, the priest encourages.


We lift them up to the Lord, we say in return.


We lift them up to the Lord. Just recently, after spouting off these words for decades without a thought, I’ve stopped to ponder: Do I? Do I lift my heart up to the Lord?


I have a friend who has helped me consider this question. Her name is Caryll, Caryll Houselander, and she’s been dead since 1954. But her spirit lives on in her heartbreakingly poetic writing that searches the depths of my heart. In The Reed of God, she writes:


Everyone can offer the Body of Christ on the altar of his own life. But the offering must be the offering of a human being who is intensely alive, a potent humanness, great sorrow and great joy, a life lit up with the flame of Love, fierce fasts and thirsts and feasts of sheer joy…Everything can be put into the fire that Christ came to kindle; and whether it be the bitter wood of sorrow or the substance of joy, it will burn upwards with the same splendour of light.


Oh, Caryll. Sometimes I feel as if I’ll surely burst reading your words.


I want to offer my life to God with intensity, with passion, with truth. But this morning, I awoke to cold rain after an inadequate night’s sleep and trudged to the chapel with indifference. I got frustrated at the priest for being seven minutes late and the sisters for singing so long and the man in the back for smacking his gums.


We lift them up to the Lord, I said with my mouth but not with my heart. My trouble is a forgetfulness. It’s forgetting who God is. Forgetting that He is good, that He is my Father, that He knows every hair on my head. Am I frustrated, impatient, annoyed? He wants me to offer it to Him. Am I heartbroken, nostalgic, hurt? He longs to receive me. Am I longing, dreaming, searching? All He wants is to expand and fill my desires.


Sometimes I think I’m only ready to come to Him, to give Him my heart, when that heart is brimming with joy. When I’m consoled, and grateful, and at rest. But how much I fail to offer Him if that is so. Being intensely alive, as Caryll says, does not mean a constancy of joy and peace and confidence. It means a vulnerability, an authenticity, a heart that sometimes says, I’m a wounded, wandering mess. But, Lord, I’m Your wounded, wandering mess. And I give You my broken heart and my vibrant life.


I think of the intimacy it takes to fight. To say to one you love, I’m hurt, angry, disappointed. It’s a sign that you care enough to venture into the unknown, away from the comfort of composure, to bare your vulnerable heart. In a hidden, perplexing way, it communicates great love. So often I’d rather come to God with a smile that’s contrived than a heart that’s raw. But then He reminds me, gently or firmly, through Caryll’s prose or my feeble prayers, that He wants all of me.


So, God, you can have my heart. Take it, bless it, fill it, break it. I lift it up to You as it is, and I come to You as I am. With a patchwork of sorrow and joy, exasperation and gratitude, disappointment and hopefulness. I am wholly and unmistakably Yours.


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