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Starting Point

The heart has moving parts


Two friends traveled far to visit me here at the monastery. Anne and Pat are from New Jersey. They have been blessed with a warm, enduring friendship and easily share that gift.

One night we sat on the porch of the retreat house. Pat was talking about life and how with a turn to the right or left such momentous things can happen. That first meeting of one’s life mate may well have been the result of the taking of another road. The fanciful decision to turn and pick another spot on the beach offers a new friend. The loss of a ticket means a new reservation and a new day’s travel and the meeting of new people.

Any day is an infinite variety of turns, from radio dials to those left and right movements our feet must make on streets, grocery store aisles, the sands of beaches, the sands of time.

It can get dizzying. Looking back, I think about all the roads I could have taken and did not, all the people I could have met and did not. All the things that could have happened and did not -- all because I went left instead of right, or right instead of left, or took a new turn in a road, a new twist to a day.

So there we were just a few nights ago engaged in the warmth of a conversation the likes of which can only happen between friends who have shared years and good times and some painful ones. We spoke of these, too: those turns that hit us from the outside and hurt. But such pain, I think now, has made us turn to each other. That is good and beautiful, even sacred.

I have read that the universe is moving. The whole thing is headed somewhere. I do not know if it turns. The earth, I know, does. It revolves through this much larger movement of the cosmos. I do not think that our hearts are all that attuned to such vast turns and fantastic journeys through time and space. But God has designed everything with moving parts, including the heart.

I think back to a few nights ago, to the turn of events on a porch in a place of rest and peace. Amidst all the changes the three of us have gone through, there has been and is a definite and loving turn to our years and hearts. There has been a steady and yet chosen path all these years. My friends turned south and came here. And I turn my heart and words toward them this early morning.

Time to get moving and start my day. Lots of turns ahead. Lots of turns behind me. I trust in a loving God who lives in each and every turn: the big ones and, more important, the kind friends talk about on porches. They’re the best turns on any road.

Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, July 27, 2001