At the end of church services I come out from behind the Iconostasis (icon screen) and using a carved hand-cross pronounce a blessing upon the congregation. I then step down into the nave and in single-file people approach to express respect by reverently kissing the hand-cross that I hold out to them. Last night little Isaiah approached so I bent down and he kissed the hand-cross. Then he quietly said something that I couldn’t hear and took a step back to watch me. Being hard of hearing I bent lower and placing my ear nearer to his mouth asked him to say it again. He then said, “I love you, Father!” Responding that I loved him too I started to straighten up at which point he spontaneously threw his tiny arms around my legs and held onto me in a long, long hug! I was stunned to feel my heart take a deep, longed-for and intoxicating breath!
What happens during our life that causes us to become misers in expressing affection, unlike Isaiah? Yes, sometimes our trust gets betrayed. Sometimes we find out what we thought was sincere affection was merely promiscuous lust. Things happen and then our heart shuts like a clam! We even have a descriptive saying “to clam-up!” But in the act of clamming up to protect our heart we actually imprison it and leave it starving for affection… not only receiving it but perhaps even more importantly the giving of it as well! It is often in the act of giving affection that our own heart soars, dances, and scampers with the happiness of being fully alive!
The Sufi mystic Rumi has commented, “Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces.” In reaching out to physically express love we connect our piece to another piece and thus the two pieces become a whole. The trick in life is to not allow disappointments to convince us to clam-up!