“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19
The morning after my return home from teaching a “BECOMING” retreat on Cape Cod, I found my 5-year-old daughter Annika patiently waiting to hand me this perfectly halved and empty walnut shell. “This is for you, Mommy,” she said.
The understanding between Annika and me about what would come next was clear. First, I would say thank you for this pocket-sized wonder. Next, I would begin my usual process of asking God to help me understand the spiritual truths He might want to reveal to us about this walnut shell. In our household, we like to ask God lots of questions; and we are learning that He seems to enjoy answering some of them through His creation and confirming them through His written word (or vice versa). Therefore, accepting a gift as mundane as a walnut shell is rarely a “simple” matter around here. Annika would soon be expecting me to give her scripture verses that could correspond to a shell like this, and hopefully tell her a story about it, particularly about how it might be an answer to something I had been asking God. And, indeed it was.
On that particular morning, I had actually awoken with a deep sense of gratitude for how God had answered my prayers for the women at the retreat. I had asked Him to speak specifically to each one of them, and to do so in a way that would be undeniable to them. To my exceeding joy, before the retreat was over, each one of the women had testified to just that: they heard Him with their spiritual ears and saw glimpses of His divine providence with their spiritual eyes. Each had come to know a specific aspect of God’s character more clearly through the use of “visio divina” (divine seeing). God had indeed spoken to each woman through His creation, confirmed it in His Holy Word, and helped her begin to apply it to a current area of personal need.
Ironically, some of the tangible “soul tools” I had used at this particular retreat in order to teach the spiritual practice of “IMAGINE” were a variety of seeds: acorns to represent strengths entrusted to God in humility, Job’s tears to represent sorrows entrusted to God in release, and sunflower seeds to represent joys entrusted to God in praise. The retreatants were asked to imagine how these seeds, if tended well (sown in the soil of humility, watered by the words of scripture, and given to the light of God’s wisdom and love) could become plantings of abundant blessings for them and their loved ones. We spent time studying and practicing ways to become more attuned to hearing God with our spiritual ears, understanding the directions of God with an enlightened mind, and seeing the activities of God using the eyes of a sanctified heart.
Since arriving home, I had been asking God how I could best encourage these women to continue in this Way, and to guard themselves from the tyranny of busyness that seeks to steal what He has entrusted to them.
… the Great Cosmic Director of this play called life, seemed to call out, “Cue the five-year-old with the walnut shell!”
[ENTER ANNIKA carrying the opened walnut shell, a perfect heart with eyes].
In considering the openness of the walnut shell with its symbols of wisdom, love, provision, and the eyes of the heart hidden therein, its spiritual meaning was becoming abundantly clear to me. God was inviting me to encourage these women to be intentional about planting the seeds of love and wisdom into the soil of their home lives. I texted them the picture of the walnut along with these words, “Forget not to plant the seed of love ❤️ and wisdom 🦉 the Lord gave to you this past weekend for the sake of its continuation in your life and those around you…and tend to its becoming.”
After taking a very short jog, Annika and her 7-year-old sister Leah and I decided to take a detour onto a grassy path that seemed to serendipitously appear along our way. We walked through an old stone wall with an open wrought-iron gate, and there we came upon what I would consider a truly ancient cemetery.
Within the stone walls were tombstones dating back to the late 1600’s and 1700’s. On one tombstone I noticed the inscription, “In honor of the parents of William McKnight, scalped and killed by Indians.” Even some of the trees in the cemetery garden seemed ancient. But, of course, what I didn’t realize, until Annika placed another heavenly correspondence in my hand in the form of a walnut shell, was that this was not only the resting place of some godly men and women from ages past, but that it was also populated by a great number of walnut trees. Scattered all about were walnut shells, just like the one Annika had presented to me earlier that morning. God is ever seeking to give us more love, more wisdom, and more power for our lives. I suppose that since God, Annika, and I were now speaking the same language, it only made sense that He would keep talking, as we were still paying attention.
As my two little girls began handing me one open walnut shell after another, I asked them if they were reminded of our times shelling on the beach when we would find many, many shark’s eyes. Annika, in her wonderfully gentle voice, replied, “Yes, these seeds are God coming to us.”
As the girls and I were leaving this sanctuary of “IMAGINE,” I received a text response from one of the women who had participated in the retreat. It read, “Regarding the walnut hearts… the Lord has shown me again, even since coming home, that our hearts must be OPEN in order for His Spirit to flow through us and bear fruit that others can see and taste. But our wounds focus us inward and stop the flow of the Holy Spirit. So, we can only have open hearts, if we allow Him to heal us.”
Later that day, while doing a bit of research on seeds in general and on walnuts in particular, I learned that even though the shells of all nuts represent a sort of hardness, walnuts are perhaps the most potent symbol of a hardened exterior. Accessing the nourishment and life-giving abundance from the eyes of our hearts, requires a breaking open. But before we can become the prolific provision that makes for an enduring fruit-bearing tree, we must first allow our hardened exterior to be broken open and become undone.
God, who is the genius behind all truth and all science, had the unique job of making all that has been made from the very beginning. As a result, every archetype of the Word found in nature and every analogy of God’s truth revealed in creation will go the distance. Because of this reality, I was not at all surprised to learn how walnuts are especially good for heart health. Even a child, seeing the inner parts of a walnut, might easily guess they are beneficial to the human heart. God can and does seek to reveal His truth to us on the spiritual level, the soul level, and the physical level all the time. We need only to “Stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” Job 37:14
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19
Gracious Father in Heaven, you are so faithful and good. You are ever-present on every level. Keep the eyes of our hearts opened, we pray. Be our defender so that we can become vulnerable enough to flourish, to share our abundance, and to be strong, creative forces for good in the gardens where you have placed us. We affirm that this is indeed a far more enjoyable way to live.