Nestling your heart into a cactus may not sound like the best idea. However while hiking in Southern Utah, I began to see the value of growing a few cactus spines in your life.
It was early in the morning and I was out for a walk in Snow Canyon outside St. George, Utah. After a few miles, I stopped to munch on a granola bar. When I finished, a tiny wren darted over to grab a few crumbs then disappeared into a prickly Cholla Cactus.
I couldn't believe what I saw. The wren had built its home deep in that cactus. When I walked over to take a look, I saw the nest balanced in the Cholla stems with three beautiful little eggs in it. This little bird had found the safest place available for the thing it held most valuable. Too bad humans don't do the same.
We should care for the valuable things in our life: our families, our friends, our partners or spouses. Yet we fail on many occasions. In fact, one of the things dearest to us -- our own heart -- we tend to consistently disregard.
I couldn't help but think about this while watching that little wren care for her eggs. Both those eggs and the human heart are so fragile; yet they are the things that contain the most possibility for life and hope. If only we cared for and protected our hearts, like she cared for and protected her eggs.
To do so is not that hard. We just need to do grow ourselves some cactus spines. Why? Because the spines protect from intruders.
For the little birds, intruders meant foxes and snakes and coyotes. Who is it for us? Who or what intruders do we need protection from?
Is your heart constantly attacked by the non-stop ringing of the cell phone? Or the incessant Facebook or Twitter messages? Is your heart besieged by the constant bombardment of negative messages from the outside world?
One of the things the little wren had to watch out for was the coyote. In the Native American tradition, the coyote is known the trickster, the one you can't trust. The coyote is not unlike some people in our lives: people who say one thing then do another, or people who are out for their own agenda.
Without some cactus spines -- some boundaries -- our hearts can become battered and hurt. Remember what the book of Proverbs says: "when the heart is in pain, the spirit is broken."
We need to grow ourselves some cactus spines ... or maybe just grow a spine period.
Turn off the phone for an hour.
Take a Sabbath from email and Facebook.
Learn to say no.
Realize the precious, fragile nature of our hearts. Draw some boundaries. Grow a spine. Just remember ... every little heart needs some cactus pricklies to protect it.