Hardness of heart. Scripture uses this image to describe those who are impenetrably stubborn, those who are unwilling or unable to see God’s glory or to reorient their lives to God’s call and claims. But what causes hardness of heart? Is it always human sin, those things which we have done which ossify our hearts and rigidify our minds? Do tragic accidents sometimes harden us in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to remain open to transformation, to sustain a mental, emotional and moral agility?
The blood was barely dry on the floor of the West Nickel Mines School when Amish parents sent words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children. Forgiveness? Forgiveness so quickly for the heinous crime of killing five Amish schoolgirls? How could the Amish forgive such a thing so quickly? Was it a genuine gesture or just a gimmick?
Only a few of the 365 days in each year are associated with extraordinary events, but for those who experienced the events, the dates arouse great emotion. For Koreans, August 15 commemorates the restoration of the country’s independence after a Japanese occupation of 36 years. June 25 marks the outbreak of the Korean War. And for those of us who live in the U.S., September 11 will always be the day America was attacked.
My wife and I once toured the legendary Waterford crystal factory in Ireland, where furnaces roar 24 hours a day, powered by gas piped in from miles away. Sixteen hundred employees take turns at three shifts daily. Their training takes years, especially for the glass etchers, the smallest group among the staff.
When I was in grad school, my family moved into an apartment in South Chicago. When we saw that the door of the apartment had four locks, we wondered why we needed so many. I soon discovered that the benefit was mostly emotional. When we got inside at night, after being worried about whatever, we could shut the door on the world and turn lots of little levers. “Click, click, click.” I think of that door when I’m listening to people describe how they cope with their fears.