Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Grudge

I came in second for a national poetry contest. I would have come in first but my younger sister won that. The poem had to be heroic couplets in iambic pentameter on JUSTICE.

We had a thunder in the night that came
Like evil laughter heralding the rain.
I woke and found my city half-asleep,
And I put on old shoes to walk the street.
We have too many cars here on my block,
Even in blinding rain at three'o'clock.
I know I'm not the first one to complain -
Don't we all hate our cities just the same?

I turned to take a back-alley and found,
God, sitting in a puddle on the ground.
It'd been awhile since we'd kept in touch,
But I could see He hadn't changed that much.
"Where have you been?" I asked Him kinda slow,
"I'm pretty sure the whole world wants to know
If God has sent us coasting down a hill,
And took off work and left the steering wheel."

I hoped to see a fire light His face,
To kneel there conquered by a flaming grace.
God didn't look up from The New York Times,
"Go on," He said, "what else is on your mind?"
The sullen anger seething in my head
Exploded into wild wrath instead.
"I have a list, get ready!" I half yelled.
"When I'm done, see if You can do as well!

I want to know why You hate innocents,
And why You feed the world at their expense.
I want to know why God has set apart,
And holds a grudge against the pure in heart.
If God is sovereign, He cannot be just,
(And I'm prepared to prove it if I must).
If God is just, He has no final say ---
Judge of the Earth, You need a Judgment Day.

We had a knifing right here yesterday -
A good man going on his quiet way.
I want to hear You say You did not see,
It will make it much easier for me.
We have a lot of babies clean, unborn,
Unstained, and quite unwanted and so torn
With scissors in a sanitary space,
Tell me You have not seen this taking place.

What of the kids that line our night-time streets,
And sell themselves because they have to eat?
I know You passed a few outside that store,
God, don't You help the children anymore?
When one who loves You lets his whole world go,
Why doesn't God who saved Abednego
Take His scared, trusting lover from the flame,
And bring a matchless glory to His name?

'Three times beaten with rods and one time stoned,
Thrice shipwrecked, one night in the deep alone,'
Is this the way God sees the blessed meek?
As targets for death and calamity?
The Devil roams the streets and countryside
And takes whom he shall find and rips him wide,
The wretched righteous call You through the years,
Please tell me You have cotton in your ears!

God set the Evening News down in the mud,
And smiled, like I dared to hope He would.
And in that one igniting of His eyes,
Was life and death and sunset and sunrise.
All shades of stars within the Milky Way,
And all the flaming colors of the day,
The passion of the surf upon the sand,
And laughing of the ship in sight of land,

The holy joy of altar-kneeling tears,
Through all the multitude of counted years,
The sparkle of a thousand glories dead,
Hung, hovered in his smile when He said,
"You say the 'pure in heart' - I've known one man
And only one since all the world began.
All outrages, all wounds to soul and skin
Pale when compared with what was done to Him.

Those hands bound, that cheek slapped upon the kiss,
That head crowned thorny, -- yes, I lived through this.
Those shoulders robed in mockery and shame,
And all the hurting spitting out the Name.
That back bared, those arms stretched to take the sting!
A man can look at almost anything,
But this wrong wrongs the one that has to watch
The eye can take a lot, but not that much.

Go on and tell Me what I should have done,
-- All forces of the universe My own ---
Tell Me I should have held the striking hand,
And sent that legion scouring the land.
You will be right. My child, you will be right.
But tell Me what you would have done that night --
Would you have spared the blood within that heart?
And left the children crying in the dark?"

I thought that I had other things to say ----
The wind picked up and took my breath away.

Friday, January 29, 2010

EDEN - Perelandra, and The Fall of Man Into Sin as a Real Loss

Yes, I've taken a long break from blogging. In fact, it was such a long break that I should now have more than enough topics on my mind to keep me blogging every week for months. January has been a very busy month here. My family runs fifty goats and we just went through kidding season while my Dad was on a business trip overseas. We now have eighteen baby goats running around the farm and several more on the way. Several have to be bottle fed around the clock. I'm tired. My eleven-year-old sister also broke her arm this week.

There's a topic that I've spent so much time thinking on over the past year, I'm going to take at least two posts to write about it: EDEN.

To be quite honest, it all began with C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, which I begin to understand is probably the most overlooked and underrated book I've ever read. For months after reading it, I continued to persist in my opinion that The Space Trilogy was dry and difficult to read and that there was really nothing wonderful about it. But when I think back and realize how much Perelandra has influenced my life, and how much it has encouraged and inspired and excited me even during the months in which I was insisting that I didn't really like it, I think I need to go back and read it again.

But before I write about Perelandra, I'm going to write about its prequel, Out Of The Silent Planet. In this first book of The Space Trilogy, a man from planet Earth is taken to another planet, a perfect planet without a "fall into sin." At one point the protagonist, Ransom, tries to explain the concept of sin to some of the creatures on the other planet, but they are totally unable to understand him. The only word in their language that can even be used to refer to sin is the term "bent" or "twisted." Ransom tries to talk to them about promiscuity and they are not even able to understand what could possibly induce a creature to want to be unfaithful. Their nature is not evil like ours, and every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts is only good all the time.

In Perelandra, Ransom is taken to another "un-fallen" planet to save it from a fall into sin. The book raises all kinds of thrilling and important topics, from the sovereignty of God to the need for Law, to righteous hatred, to demon possession. But the thing that I found the most interesting was the assertion of the superiority of a perfect world.

At one point in the book Ransom is wrestling in his mind over whether or not he can risk his entire life for a faint hope of saving the perfect planet. He begins to ask himself if, after all, it is so necessary to save the planet in the first place. If it were to fall, surely God would redeem it eventually, just as He did ours. Not in the same way, maybe, but it would be redeemed. And his mind, agonized and afraid of doing what he knows he should do, begins to wonder if perhaps redemption is better anyway than un-fallen perfection. After all, didn't we get Jesus out of the Fall? Don’t we have the Kingdom of God among us, and the Spirit of God dwelling in us? However, these lines completely void his argument:

"Whatever you do, He will make good of it, but not the good He had prepared for you. That is lost forever. The first King and Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought of it good in the end, but what they did was not good, and what they lost we have not seen, and there were some to whom no good ever came nor ever will come."

After Ransom makes his decision he goes and finds the "Eve" of the planet sleeping in the woods, and there is this beautiful and heart-breaking passage:

"As he stood looking down on her, what was most with him was an intense and orphaned longing that he might, if only for once, have seen the great Mother of his own race thus, in her innocence and splendor. 'Other things, other blessings, other glories,' he murmured. 'But never that. Never in all worlds, that. God can make good use of all that happens. But the loss is real.'"

The loss is real. We don't know everything that we lost when we fell into sin, but it is a real loss - a loss of things that God wanted us to have. And because of this fall, everything here that was created whole and lovely and majestic is broken.

I was instant messaging a good friend of mine a couple nights ago and we were talking about this concept of brokenness as a result of the human fall into sin. I think that very often we don't even come close to realizing how deeply sin has perverted everything in the world. Sin has perverted even the good things. The world is messed-up and even the beautiful things are adulterated. If you just take a minute to think about this, you can trace the effects of sin in every sphere of life. Here are a few I thought of off the top of my head:

Human Love: As Galadriel says in The Fellowship of The Ring, "In all lands, love is now mingled with grief." Love in our world comes with pain. I'm not necessarily talking about romantic love between the sexes here, but just about love in general. Even the very purest and deepest love that we have for other people is sure to get us hurt in some way, whether by death or betrayal or separation or misunderstanding or something else.

Nature/The Outdoors: The nature that is still praised by poets and idealists as the way to relax the mind and still sought by city people as a refuge from the horrors of social problems and urban stress, is messed-up. Cruelty is manifest in nature. The fittest survive, and the weak suffer.

Human Nature: The nature of men has been destroyed. Our "natural" lusts for blood and violence and ready sex are indicators that nature is not absolute, and has definitely failed. Our more subtle desires for power and position and fame and wealth and control at any cost are other examples of this perversion.

Human Beauty: God made us in His image, and we are beautiful. But how frequently our beauty is corrupted by our lusts! How frequently are beautiful people regarded not as living testimonies to the glory of the Creator but as things to be played with and discarded when we are tired of them! And how frequently we refuse to reflect the beauty of God in our bodies and instead choose to allow ourselves to be ugly?

My friend was highlighting the fact that even God, when He is blessing us with the most vital and important things, has to break us to do so. We live in a sinful world, and when we hurt and break ourselves with sin, the only way for Him to heal us is to re-break the bone we’ve broken and set it correctly. It's almost a contradiction that the perfect and Almighty God has to heal us by breaking us again. Jars of Clay has a sweet, sad song about brokenness and the wretched condition of humanity and their first lines go like this:

"Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone……"

After reciting a list of the horrific evils, they end it with the simple cry,

"Oh my God,
Oh my God,
Oh my GOD!"

You can listen to this song here:


That is what I feel like saying sometimes. There are some things so evil that nothing else can carry their weight. Sometimes, when I get hit in the face by the full force and understanding of the depth of our fall, the only thing worth saying is, "Oh my God," because as George MacDonald puts it in Sir Gibbie, "Jesus is the one rock where evil finds no echo. Jesus is the cavern of destroying love into which all evil tumbles and finds no reaction and ends forever."

P.S. If that struck you as a slightly depressive post, don't worry: the next one will more than make up for it!