May 26, 2024 Essay: A Battered Heart

May 17, 2024

Have you ever observed, either in person or a newsclip, a boat that has lost its mooring and is being battered by a stormed tossed sea? It bobs and weaves as if it were a puppet controlled by the relentless force of nature. Always in motion, yet never with an even keel. Are not our lives battered at times by forces beyond our control? When that happens, we feel adrift amidst a maddening crush of events in either the world or our personal lives. Our natural instinct is to seek a safe harbor, a refuge that is both familiar and under our control. Tragically at times, the very act of survival may ensnare us in a different and more insidious trap.

In times of trouble, real or perceived, the tendency is to withdraw and try to regain control. There is a false sense of security that many place on being independent, that in separating ourselves from others we will work through the threat on our own terms and by ourselves. The allure of isolation presents itself as the surest way to avoid danger. However, there is an inherent peril in falling victim to the “easy way out.” The more we rely solely on ourselves, as though that were possible, we will deceive ourselves and create an alternate reality. We will have failed to recognize that we cannot go it alone. Our hearts will become hardened by a false sense of security.

Paradoxically and most assuredly, when the walls of isolation and conceit are dismantled, a safe harbor will be found, even in the midst of a whirlwind of confusion and fear. For you see, we can never actually go it alone. We need one another and, most importantly, we need God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In his sonnet, Batter my heart, three-person’d God, John Donne wrote about the need in our lives to let God in and take control.

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new,

I, like an usurp’d town to another due,

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,

But am betrothed unto your enemy;

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free.

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

 The tranquil harbor that we seek when we feel overwhelmed by forces beyond our control is available to us at each moment of our lives. In his sonnet, Donne shows us how to reach our desired destination. The seemingly impenetrable walls of ego and arrogance, that offer us only the appearance of security, must be breached. It is in our heart that we will discover what we seek if we but let in God. It is in that harbor of tranquil waters that we will experience God as our Creator, God as our Redeemer, and God as the Spirit always abiding within us.

May our prayer be that of John Donne. Batter my heart, three-person’d God that I may find in You the peace I seek in the midst of the whirlwind of my life.

— Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor