The Chambered Nautilus lives on the ocean floor. As it grows it builds a spiral shell that contains chambers.
In the above photo you can see a cutaway of the inside of the shell. The mollusk seals off each chamber as it outgrows it and moves to the next. These left-behind chambers contain a gas or liquid that then helps control its buoyancy. Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr. has written a poem about the nautilus called The Chambered Nautilus.
Mark Nepo says this is a lesson in how to use our past: "Live in the most recent chamber and use the others to stay afloat." He asks, "Can we, in this way, build strong chambers for our traumas: not living there but breaking our past down till it is fluid enough to lose most of its weight?" He goes on to say, "It tells us that only time can put the past in perspective, and only when the past is behind us, and not before us, can we be open enough and empty enough to truly feel what is about to happen."
His next statement, however, is what struck me most. He said, "Only by living in the freshest chamber of the heart can we love again and again for the first time." I suddenly realized this is the secret to unconditional love! To love for the first time. Is it not true that the very first time you love someone there are no conditions attached to it? It's only in acting on that love that we begin to attach conditions. We may have an expectation now for it to be returned or appreciated or we begin to hope the person will change in some way in order to continue loving them. But, if we were instead to "love again and again for the first time" from the "freshest chamber of the heart" it would be the pure kind of love that God showers on us.
The key to living in the freshest chamber of one's heart is in sealing off the past and allowing it to buoy us in the sea of life, but not before first acknowledging it. It means we do not deny our traumas, but rather "break them down" by gleaning meaning from them. Scripture tells us God takes everything that happens to us and works it together for our good--for those who love and trust Him. We may not always understand the larger picture, but there is always at least a small nugget we can take from the charred remains of our life's experiences to buoy us and lift us up to a better understanding of what God's purpose is for our lives.
Father, life is very difficult for so many people at this very moment. No one escapes these difficulties. Some have more than others. But that should not keep us from loving each other as You love us. Help me to love again and again as though for the first time.
Link to scripture: 1 John 4:19
Take action: God's Unconditional Love