The Pangs of Desire

This has been quite an interesting two weeks, thus my silence. I have encountered a whole host of people who are either unaware of the ill they do, or are aware and ignore the voice of conscience. Ok, I wont stand here and judge like I never disobey what my conscience says or even claim to have never caused any harm by my disobedience so take this toasted lament with a pinch of salt, a hint of pepper and some Marmite (which I hate by the way).

You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Jeremiah 12:1

The question that has been marinating in my heart is this. Do the wicked have no conscience or is its voice dimmed?

In my own life I’ve found it quite hard to make a cup of tea for myself without offering one to whoever was around me. I struggled to eat the last biscuit in the pack, and used to buy two chocolate bars so that when asked I had one to share. I try to do what I can to be a positive in people’s lives. This is quite difficult as my desire is to serve myself, thus wrought for others seems vain. My conscience however, loud as a drum, kicks in and wrangles with my self-centeredness whenever I turn away from serving others.

This moreover is a world full of people who can be ungrateful, and utterly selfish with no regard for their neighbour’s wellbeing, and seemingly get away with it. This makes the whole turn the other cheek thing tough; not because the other person is relentless but because deep down I wish I could get away with doing what they are doing. This is at the core of my complaint. It is such a devastating lens focused onto my own depravity: that it isn’t against the wicked that I lament but a desire at very center of my heart to be one. I genuinely love God and would like to think that my actions in line with His will are rooted in a love for Him rather than a fear of my actions’ consequences. But that root isn’t as straight forward as I find as similar a mystery as is the nature of Grace at the core of my desires.

I honestly do wish I could get away with half of what I have seen people do this week and am – like Jeremiah – complaining about it. At the same time, I know how harmful selfishness can be and am – in a small part – grateful that I know I wont actually get away with it. It doesn’t stop it being painful to witness, neither does it make doing good easier.

Our faith is difficult one. I suppose if you aren’t grappling with it constantly then you’re either almost in heaven or most certainly angelic. It’s answer to the pangs of desire is to ask us to pursue someone else’s: God’s. This doesn’t stop them from being pangs. I suppose the idea of ‘carrying a cross and following Jesus’ is this sense of doing something difficult for a cause that transcends our own. It’s a noble thought that like a drop of water skims the surface of a furnace almost mocking the hope of dousing the flames.

Evidently I am in complain mode so I will not put my positive thoughts. (Out of disobedience because I hear and feel the answers to my complaint: take what you will from that.)

 

 

 

Poetry 018: Talitha Koum

“Go” He said. With weighted measure we
Obeyed. With sword, bow and scepter our siege
We laid. In decadence we hewed out our footholds
In the foothills of grace’s dismay. With hands,
By architecture tainted, this earthen town we laid.
In thick steel our gates we made; their outward
Arrows sharp as gazes. So high the walls
We chose erect that the early breeze, once
Composed abated. The mighty streams, whom
Once in spring we bathed, in anxious zeal
Rose we and tamed; life we chained in hymns,
And winds to whom once in song we’d yield,
Chose we assail.
Was it for this, Accented Verb,
That the dream you fearlessly sowed within,
Turning even from thine own to share
In garment and kin, so vigorously denied
Yet still in song enchant, to reap deceit?
Look at your lands: barren and boldly fruitless.
In feeble might the sands, enriched by winter’s
Edifice, declare the winds immobile, the seas
Empty of power, the sun a stain, and seasons
Mortal. In haughtily chorused anarchy slayed
The voice which in their hearts you laid. Look!
These pews for joy, fill with hearts reticent,
These words for peace, impress the beasts intent
So we the coven away from peace repent;
Relenting rather into dirges’ cadence:
In songs for poise and praise we’d rather sleep.
Weep! For deep in time’s chains we choose
Our keep; a citadel from unfurnished bricks.
Her glory cursed slumbers windless still.

“I sought your hearts, knocked and waited as
You built these stone altars for yourselves.
Heaven is my throne, I dwell not
In houses made by human hands.
My spirit thus shall not contend with man,
For in wicked stain his heart is full versed.
Oh Jerusalem! City of grace and might,
For how much longer shall thy watchmen sleep?”

Is it for this that we now dream as hope,
Rooted deep in sightless depths unknown,
For breaths, as light though gone, were once our own?
In action sowing seeds away from rain,
With hearts content and minds commenting vain.
If walls we measure, then therein none’s contained
For weight of wrought. And all shall slumber lest
The heart is, once more, kissed. It is no less,
Away from the promise of deathless wist proclaimed,
And feet from breathless walks now found maim,
That from thy love to mountain peaks we fray
With limping hearts and conscience in dismay.
Whisper not for silence less assails.
Wretched hands what violence though avail.
Guide thy tongue from haughty vein oh soul!
And set thy sights on ancient heart’s abode.
We built these walls of sorrow high and steep,
And hiding in our laurels didst we sleep
In plundered halls as barren widows weep.
Our golden courts with haughty windows speak
Testing justice, resting in deceit.

“Oh Jerusalem! City of grace and might,
Thy line of measure mine alone shall be,
Thy walls a flame that I alone shall keep,
Thy hearts a seed that I alone shall reap,
As breath and life are mine alone to give.
For I gave you hope, and hope chose you to smite,
I gave you peace, but war chose you recite,
I gave you mercy, judgement chose you rite.
I saw your darkness, and chose to give you light,
But light fought you and chose to sleep in night.
Daughter of man! In sleep I would have left you,
But mine own hand of love would not forsake.
Though in the hymn of wretchedness you set,
The seeds I sow I once more will collect.
Talitha Koum!”

© Denis Adide 2009

Faith 004: Touched (Part 2)

Mark 1:40-42

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”.  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

 

Grill a Christian, as the name suggests, is an evangelistic event where the floor is open for questions on and about Christianity to be asked and where possible addressed. Once a couple of years ago, while a part of Brunel Christian Union, we held one in a lecture theatre. The question of who Jesus was leveled at the panel.

As a response Kev, one of the panelists, told the story of a group of war prisoners in an underground cell who, having been tortured had cowered together in a corner; keeping their naked bodies warm by huddling together. The indignity they had been subjected to had brought them together but their shame had stilled their tongues. In this dark cell they had crouched silently awaiting their deaths.

After a while a liberating army successfully invaded the land and in the process of doing so had uncovered this prison. Illuminating the cell the soldiers, in full gear, opened the doors and informed the prisoners of their freedom. But rather than get up and leave, the prisoners cowered further: seemingly frightened further at the sight of soldiers.

On seeing this, one of the soldiers slowly placed his weapon down at the entrance and walked into the cell. He then took off his uniform and stood at the periphery of the group in nothing other than his underwear. He then, after a short while moved closer the group and stretched his hand toward the nearest prisoner who responded by taking the soldier’s hand. One by one this soldier led each one of the prisoners, by hand, out of the cell.

The prisoners, like the leper, had lost some of their humanity and, crippled by fear, had a warped sense of expectation. Their experiences had not only changed their perspective of themselves but also of other people. Thus they were afraid of the liberating soldiers.

The liberating soldiers, in the zeal of the freedom they brought were whole. Wholeness to the broken is scary. Faith to the broken is risky. Freedom to the bound is an unknown: this too is scary.

As stated in the first part of this discussion, Jesus – like the soldier – strips himself of his apparel and heals firstly by a show of empathy and compassion. He, at the doorway to humanity removes his robe and his golden sash, wears a human head of hair, cools the blazing fire in his eyes, fleshes out his bronze feet as well as his tongue – which is a double edged sword [See Revalations 1:12-16]. For us to understand the Love of a Lion it comes to us as a humble Lamb.

So

  • Maybe like the healed leper, you are anxious to share your faith. Seeking out at every opportunity to tell people what God has done in your life. Go for it I say. Spare a thought however for how scary the thought of change can be. Be conscious of the radicallity of the gospel and it’s capacity to unsettle and break even the thickest of skins. With the confidence that being Loved by God can give it is quite easy to be a Lion and harder to be a Lamb. Empathy and compassion require patience, touch requires proximity, and proximity – and the intimacy it requires – takes time and patience. Always try to understand [to know thoroughly by close contact or long experience with] as you were once understood. Be Grace-full [unconditional in your love, and long suffering in your forgiveness] and never loose hope for God’s intervention. For us to show how safe and loving the Lion is, we must show ourselves as Lambs beside it.
  • Maybe sharing your faith is hard. Becoming a lamb is embracing vulnerability. This in many ways is very scary. So is touching a leper. The thought that Christ died in order for us to understand love always makes me afraid of expressing my faith. I don’t want to be jeered at, let alone stripped half naked, whipped and then nailed to a cross in front of a city. My thought is this: God’s love changes us from the inside out. His story is one of accepting us where we are and thoroughly loving us until we are so full of love that it seeps out our eyes, ears, mouth, hands etc. If you are not ready, rest in his love. You, like me, are still making my way out the cell. That in itself is a statement to the rest of the people in the cell that trust/ Faith is possible, touch, humanity, and dignity are available, and the hope for wholeness is one that is healthy to have. Be encouraged, you are doing and saying more than you think: “I don’t know enough yet” is equally an important an answer as any.
  • Maybe like me, while in a broken place, you encountered the overzealous soldier. The impatient Christian who barked verses at you never once stopping to see or hear the tears that you had bubbling. If so, I am sorry. The church is filled with people on the different stages within their journey to and from the cross. Its diversity is its one flaw and at the same its beauty. In my experienceGod’s wish is for us to realize his hands beside ours, his tears at the sight of ours, and his aching heart at our sorrow. The imperfection we find in his church is a way of Him expressing to us His capacity to Love. He is in His own way working to perfect it. Until then though it is filled with equally broken people on their journey toward wholeness: not one of us, in and out of the Church, is whole. Be assured however that not everyone within the Church is the overzealous soldier, and that there are places and people who can truly listen with empathy and compassion, sharing and caring with and for each other through the painful and joyous.