"Somewhere in the process of obedience to the law, in the turning to scriptures to discover more from them, the sight and sound of the living – active and moving – God whose Word dictated their deeds was replaced by the ritual itself. There he stood amongst them, unknown to them, lamenting their self-blinkered hearts, ready to intervene and bare the cost".
I often wondered if the world in darkness shone for itself. Maybe it is we, who look but never see, that are blind.
A poem about a blind poet
Seated, he heard the foreign sounds
Of passing cars, of children, of hounds,
Of planes sailing through the clouds
Of silent moments, and of crowds.
The wind through the leaves whistled
The bamboo heaved along with the thistles
Distant worlds in torrents neared
But window blinds blocked out the mounds
Seated, he thought to find the nouns
For subtle smiles, for tickles, for frowns
For faces floating from the downs,
through greens, through forests, and through towns.
Deep within old cinders glistened
He strained his heart so it would listen
And the world without in torrents neared
But window blinds blocked out the mounds
“The truest gift is that of fearce, undying, unconditional, and preemptive love”
So, last night as I sat with my wife, her mother and brother, unwrapping the presents we had got each other, I cast my thoughts back across the afternoon. We had sat together and read from Luke 2 after which we sang a few carols and finished with a prayer.
Over the verses concerning the birth of Jesus, I had poured many times before; so too had I sung the carols time and time again. There was however, something quite different taking place. In this intimate space, where I was part embarrassed by the sound of my voice joining the harmonies filling the room, the canvas of monotony was lifted and fresh meaning began to emerge from the verses and the lyrics.
I was overcome with a deep sense of appreciation for the expression of love shown to me by the Father through – and by the Son. The sense of celebration transcended the Gifts underneath the tree, sailing past the feeling of belonging : as I was gathered with family, and resting on a Spiritual awakening: that the gift was to my heart and soul. The birth of Christ became a tangible, as well as a Spiritual, joy.
Opening my presents, I was surprised at the way in which my wife and her family surpassed my expectations. They had given me far above what I deserved and it made me feel equally loved. It was here that the other verses i had forgotten began to pour past.
love is itself. It is an action and not a response. It is not something that can be cultured or grown, love comes complete and whole. What we mostly mistake for love is intimacy, which takes time to grow and develop. You need intimacy in order to express love because intimacy is the currency of relationship. Love is as love is; a thing with no beginning and no end. It is a space with no boundaries; infinite and incomprehensible in its totality. It emerges – reveals itself – leaving us to react to it with our actions. You cannot show love without its revelation to you; thus the verse.
As I pondered this, the next verse flew by…
for God ‘so’ loved… That He ‘gave’
Generosity is love’s character. The only thing that proceeds from love is an act of giving. Love gives. A wise man once said to a group of boys, of whom i s one, that love in action is ‘sacrificial giving of what the subject needs, not what they want’. This rings true with sentiment that withholding for a time falls in the remit of love’s generosity. For God so loved the world that He gave… Not only did love act, love sought to get intimate with us so that we may understand it, enjoy it, relate to it, and share in it – with it. (Something worth chewing on)
‘no greater love has a man than this, to lay down his Life for his friend’
This final verse led me to the conclusion that the generosity that love displays is a total one. That is, one that asks for handing over of what is most delicate and precious. Love shared its life – the soft inner part of itself – with us.
How fearce, how free, how complete, how compelling. Death was not the only purpose, He was born to live, to be learnt, to be doubted, to be trusted, to be embraced, to be denied, to be seen suffering, to be seen hungry, to cry, to be human. All so that Love could be understood.
I’m always harking on about the power of vulnerability and the importance of openness. A thought crossed my mind as I sat to a bowl of leek soup – that’s a story on it’s own. What was taking place on the cross? This in keeping with the idea that God intended not only demonstrate love but also how to love. So… He is crucified. (Phillipians 2) Having already come down from heaven and been condemned by man, Jesus faced death at the hands of the beings He created (John 1). Not only is that a lesson in humility – the bridge between shame and glory, submission and leadership, accountability and Lordship – it seemed to me to be a deep lesson in vulnerability. For God saw fit to show his biggest strength and ultimate power by being victorious over our biggest enemy (sin and sinfulness), when under great shame (that of dying on a cross) as well as the great pain of separation.
When darkness fell, the Son called out to the Father, The Father – for Justice – turned away. Our LORD fell into death and emerged victorious. In crying out, Jesus was honest about His pain, honest about His circumstance, needing the Father – such brokenness, such shame, how glorious. Jesus was honest about His weakness; His need for the Father. Naked of outward Glory, but still shining nonetheless.
My soup went cold for the contemplation led me to praise. I made no noise, sang no songs, and in fact said little. Overwhelmed with the sense of God’s ability and desire to share life ultimately, I rested in the state of overwhelm (I’m still there).
I think heaven will be an eternity of moments like these – Infinite spaces to discover more about the Infinite father, the incarnate Son, and the Intimate Holy Spirit.
PS: I haven’t studied theology so correct any mistakes!
“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.
She took the rose I gave her, tied the stalk with a silk string
And hung it from her windowsill to dry;
Its petals still accented by the scent of early spring.
She smiled. “These flowers, my love, tell a lie,
For they do not have the life to which they cling,
Their crimson clothes for affection die.”
Slumped I stood, “What a reply!”,
And couldn’t tell her I’d bought the ring.
In my experience so far – which I don’t think differs from any – I have been victim to the strange way in which men and women, in speaking the same language, misunderstand each other. Thinking on this pointed me toward the fears that I had – and still do have – about openly expressing how I felt to a woman. How everything they did or said affected what I was about to say. The proposal is such a story, where love – and the celebration that it should carry – is lost in the vacuum of things either unsaid, or misunderstood. It is a solemn poem that like the hidden ring, speaks of concealed emotions and thoughts lost on the threshold of commitment because of fastly fading sentiments that are as dead as the flowers. Love, more immortal than the dying plants or the fears that hamper, is sorrowfully lost in the small moments. This poem is for all the men, who like me, never reached the height of romance in their proposals. It is a word to our respective women: our actions will never fully incapsulate our sentiments, bare with us.