The Awakened Heart

Already the snowdrops have pushed through the cold soil, crisp and white with little nodding heads, beckoning to the crocus and daffodil bulbs to follow suit. The small wild visitors to our gardens are busy speculating over territory and marking safe places to nurture their young ones. Working with the instincts of procreation, they proceed as if all is well with the world, and thus convey a sense of renewed hope and motivation after the trials of darker times. Better days lie ahead.

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth
And as things have been, they remain.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain.
Far back, through creeks and inlets making
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.                     A. Clough

As in the time of conflict and despair, the poem is a rallying cry to the downcast to look beyond the ruin and loss, to the in-flooding tide of renewed energy and resolve. Look and see, the land is bright. We are coming THROUGH.

There is a lovely phrase in ch.5 of the Song of Songs, uttered by the Shulamite maiden. “I sleep but my heart is awake.” She is apart from her Beloved, the one to whom her heart belongs. In weariness she has settled into the repose of night-time and failed to respond to his returning call. Then, desperately longing for his presence and full of remorse at her dilatory response, she goes out seeking him in the darkened streets and will not be satisfied until they are reunited. Even in bodily rest, her heart has been alert, her emotions tuned, her love constant and true.

During the seemingly endless months of lockdown our churches across the land have resorted to many commendable methods of communication and outreach. Yet it is inevitable that the lulling comfort of remote and journeyless worship can send us into a state of lethargy and erode our commitment to assembly. Do we still hear the reassuring beat of the heart that loves, and are the feet and hands still ready to participate in fresh opportunities in the work of the Kingdom of God?

We may consider another application of “I sleep but my heart is awake, (or awakens)”. Many families across our nation are mourning the loss of much loved ones whose untimely departure has left aching voids in daily life. For those of faith who believe that their loved one has “fallen asleep in Jesus”, there comes a deeply comforting message in Scripture, that their future reunion will be joyful beyond description. The body may have settled into it’s final repose, but the heart awakens to life more abundant, free from the encroaching fears and struggles of the earth-bound existence and in a place of no more tears.

There is a land where shadows never deepen
And sunset glories fade not into night-time
Where weary hearts shall win the boon
of endless blessing
And faith is lost in sight.

A land where sad farewells are never spoken
Where every loss of life is richest gain
Where stumbling feet at last shall find a haven
And hearts have no more pain.

A land where those who sigh for long-lost faces
The loved of life whose going brought us pain
Shall find them in the brightness of the Father’s glory
Where we shall meet again.                                                         

Iris Niven