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Hardening of the Heart

It is Saturday. I suppose I could be excused for not getting dressed until nearly 4 p.m. Again, perhaps not.

My eyes and my head have been throbbing. I felt fine when I woke up, then the pain began. Sometimes I wonder if the act of breathing in and out, thinking and worrying, or simply being conscious can bring me to my knees in pain.

After what has happened to me recently, I have done some reflecting. And although I post a great deal of what is going on in my life---those are tiny snippets of a larger, more complex and painful picture. However, I am told that the pain is my own, to keep or reject. I wonder though...if by rejecting the pain, does this cause your heart harden to a point past all caring?

When my only son was younger, we were constantly warning him about the physical dangers in his world. "Christopher, please don't climb so high in that tree. Critter, please slow down on your bike. Son, please wear your helmet and elbow pads when you are skateboarding. Chris, don't jump so hard on the trampoline, you'll fall off and hurt yourself."

We neglected to tell him not to climb out the second story window of our home and leap into the air, falling onto the trampoline below in his stocking feet. It never occurred to us that he would do such a thing. Upon landing, his feet went in different directions. Crying, he drug himself off the trampoline, into the house, up the stairs and into our bedroom. Stricken by his cries, because he never cried, we rushed to his side, only to have him explain in a hiccuping voice, what he'd done.

Action and instant consequence. Some call it Karma. Most of the time we don't get an instant consequence to our actions. Other times, we do. Touching a hot stove brings instant pain. A lifetime of abusing drugs or alcohol will damage a body. But what happens when we deign to deny our spiritual side? What happens when we knowingly go against what we know to be true and right? What happens when we cross lines we know we ought not to cross?

I could never bring myself to rob a bank. Not right away, of course. Perhaps I could start by taking a piece of candy from a drugstore. If I'm not caught, and my conscience doesn't squawk too awfully much, I might do it again. I might move on to taking a shirt I fancied, or a piece of jewelry. (Apologies for the word, 'fancied'. I have been watching an awful lot of BBC America) After a time, my conscience won't ever bother me again, because I've ceased to listen to it. Guilt is a thing of the past, and some would say that that's a good thing. Why feel guilty for anything? Why indeed.

One of our church leaders this weekend, during General Conference, said, "Guilt is to the spirit, what pain is to the body; a warning."

I'm not sure my son felt guilt when he leaped out that second story window. I do know he was remorseful the moment he hit the stretchy black trampoline and pain struck him. I like to think he learned a lesson that day---I know that I did. Despite all the dangers we warned our children against, no matter how much we taught them right from wrong, taught them to pray and to have faith---some of them simply needed to touch that hot stove for themselves. Some of them, despite loving counsel and repeated warnings, have felt the need to step over lines. Some are reaping consequences that will effect them far into the future. While there is still time to mitigate the damage, some damage is already done. It didn't have to be so.

I sometimes have difficulty separating myself from the actions and the consequences of my four children. I know I should. I know I must. My tears have dampened my pillow on many a night and I although I have placed my heartache and my burdens at the Lord's feet---I still ache inside for them. I hurt. They are, and always will be, a part of me. And while I stand ready to help, I cannot make decisions for them, I cannot save them. There is only One who can. All I can do is try not to harden my heart against the pain---and keep on loving.

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