Today’s Word from Rev. David Bieniek…
As I wondered what to write this week, I came across this blog post from several years ago. It seemed the wisdom was still true today, so I offer it anew.
Returning from a chaplains’ conference, I sat on the plane next to two medical students. They did not know each other, nor did they know that I was a chaplain. Just three souls who happened to sit next to each other on a plane. I had made small talk with the first and found out he was a pre-med student. When the second guy sat between us, he mentioned being a fellow in a hospital. We all sat back into our routine as the plane took off.
After we took off, I saw both of them put away the work they were doing and turn their faces to the window. Though I could not see their faces it felt like two young boys peering in the window of the local pet store where puppies were playing inside.
I looked over their shoulders and saw an amazing sunset. They both stared at it for a while and then the pre-med student started taking pictures. It was an amazing sunset. A sunset you could only get over the desert mountains. The colors refracted off the dry air as the fiery ball sat suspended over the mountain.
But even more amazing was seeing these two young men marvel and revel in the beauty of the Creator beyond our shared window.
At that point I decided I had to break in. “OK guys, this is going to sound weird that I would say this, so let me tell you before I start that I am a chaplain.” They both looked at me and smiled. (Was that an “Oh one of THOSE types” smile?) I continued.
“You give me hope. I have worked with a lot of doctors and medical professionals, and seeing you two stop to notice the sunset just really gives me huge hope.”
With that, the first fellow and I began a conversation about the jobs we do and the difficulties we face. We found a common ground for a few minutes. And then he turned back to the window and asked the other guy if he would mind if he took some pictures too.
For a moment we were all suspended in this beauty and appreciation. It felt open and heart-centered.
I had had an on-going meditation running in my head about the lotus blossom. It began at a Quaker service many months ago. The meditation had returned several times over the past week as I listened to presenters talk about having an open heart for patients and family. Each time I heard those words, the image of the lotus blossom returned. I decided they must have a connection.
As the lotus blossom begins, it is a small pod that does not look like much. In fact, you may not even notice it in your pond. But as it matures, it begins to peel away that pod-like characteristic to reveal intricate myriad petals. The petals seem to be miniature arms that are opening up to welcome the sun.
As more and more petals open, the true center of the lotus is revealed; it is the reproductive organs of this blossom. It is the true purpose for this flower’s existence. We may think that the reason for the flower is our enjoyment, but that is just a by-product.
The true reason this flower is there is to entice the bees and other insects to come and explore its sweetness. And in that way, the bees take the pollen from one blossom to the next allowing the next generation to have a greater chance of survival.
We see the beauty, and we rejoice in it. As the beauty is revealed petal by petal, we finally see the real beauty, which is fertility and future. I am left wondering how this meditation became linked to the concept of opening our hearts, or more precisely, why did it become linked?
My young friends demonstrated it better than any one else could. When we allow our hearts to open, we reveal the true purpose of our hearts, of our lives.
Yes, we all have petals – beauty, knowledge, skills, those things that society and our families taught us are important. Those are the beautiful petals, and they are important. After all, what is a doctor without skills, an actor without talent, a violinist without the instrument?
But the true nature of the heart is revealed in moments when it is completely, and often accidentally, opened. That is when the heart can realize its true potential as a foundation of hope, love, and caring.
That is the fertility of an open heart. It is the parts that recognize the beauty around them and beyond them and then point to the future in hope and grace.
I hope my young medical friends continued to see the beauty in sunsets and in the cry of a newborn and the grief of a parent and the final sighs of a hospice patient. May all of our hearts be open like the lotus blossom to reveal the true beauty in our depths.
Reverend Dave Bieniek