I haven’t read the novel The Painted Drum yet, but came across this quote from it somewhere recently:
Life will break you.
Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.
You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.
Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
– Louise Erdrich
Oh my. Oh my.
The vivid image these words painted for me recalled
two apple trees in the yard of my Eastern Ontario childhood home,
my sweet mother trying in vain each August
to collect every single apple to make of it something needed and desired–
applesauce or apple cobbler or apple juice or apple pie–
while succumbing finally to the inevitable heaviness and abundance of
those swollen fruits as they fell to the lawn,
their plump overripe sweetness oozing out onto the root-layered dirt,
and the bees and wasps swarming around for a taste,
other creatures using them up as best they could,
the rest of the cores and skins and flesh melting into the ground,
while knowing with a deep internal knowing that
this is how it was meant to be.
Are we not here to love and to be loved,
to serve and to be served?
To fall vulnerable to the ground,
empty and wanting to be used and poured out for all to see,
perhaps to be left there, unseen and stepped upon,
yet surely, not ever going to waste?
It brings to mind the active love of Christ
as described in the book of Philippians and examined in a Palm Sunday sermon* I encountered recently:
“Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be snatched or exploited, emptied himself. He poured himself out, taking the form of a servant, and he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
The Greek verb used here is the same verb used in pouring out a liquid from a pitcher — emptying, pouring, and flowing…
And what is God’s meaning in this thing?
Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, hope, life — all shared, all poured out, all flowing.
It simply never stops.
And what does this mean for us?
“Have this mind in you.”
It is the soul filling and soul transforming awareness that God loves the world, that God loves humanity, that God loves me. It is the soul filling and soul transforming commitment to act on and act in that love through service and mission in this world.” *
What does it look like, feel like,
to live in this all-consuming fire, embodying a loving, falling, emptying heart and soul?
This is so hard for us to grasp or even imagine,
though as this excerpt reminds us, our Creator has gifted us nature, oft to be our divine guide toward truth:
“Let us sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around us in heaps, wasting their sweetness, telling ourselves we tasted as many as we could…”
And if it is true in the course of our lives that
we learn to pour ourselves out for love–
at times falling heavily to the ground, embracing brokenness, accepting our heartache,
and if we are willing to be put to greater use,
even if only to nourish the ground where we have landed–
then we will have tasted all that we could of the sweetness of the apples falling from the tree.
And then–it seems to me–that we will have trusted God to use our pouring out
to fill an aching empty space elsewhere on the earth,
and we will know with a deep internal knowing that