This rib cage
pushing outward with the inhalation.
There is this vista within.
In my beating heart.
In that fist-sized pound of muscle.
There is a wide open field.
There is a wide open field!
See that figure, there. Not in the center.
The grasses all dance at his knee caps.
The clouds roll by slowly so far above him.
In this vista within me.
Where my rib cage opens wide and closes narrow, like a bellows.
Zoom in on the man in the field within me.
Close in on the center of his chest.
Pass through the fabric of his shirt.
Slide within his chest.
He breathes too.
Find that vista within him.
There is a field
I stand in that place.
And this flesh yielded
To the thorns,
And the nails.
Stripped naked of pretense
Hanging there before them.
and yet on the thief’s cross beneath him.
meditating in my chair
on Christmas Eve morning.
I was so close
to being scourged by that pain.
My pain. And yet it was held separate from me.
The ground reached up and wanted to pull me down.
It tore the flesh where the nails pierced me.
I am broken.
A song rose up and surrounded me.
Covered me. Entered me through the holes in my hands.
And then it was gone.
And I was
I was more alone than ever before.
This, this is the way of things!
Three days dead and also forever.
And next, (There was a next!)
I was the song.
I have long loved the curves and swerves of your body.
As these years pass this is lessened only comparatively
as I find something which surpasses and runs deeper.
That is a fine reason to love.
But this is what grows:
This love of your physicality
not so much as end unto itself
but because it is the location of you.
The ground that was scooped up and breathed into
was sacred before He breathed into it.
And it was made sacred as he breathed into it.
It is where you are.
Your body is the hole punctured through
the very stuff of space and time, (this dying world.)
It is how the light shines through
From somewhere else, magnificent.
They say that God entered the world.
And so did I.
And so did you.
This is a thing worthy of celebration!
There is this idea that Jesus’ death bought something: that he was a unique currency, only ever redeemable once.
There is a part of me that recently wanted to throw this idea away far away from me. And in some ways, I had good reasons. There are some questionable ethical things happening, if this is how it worked. It seemed rather suspicious than American, Evangelical Christianity would become rather obsessed with a financial-economic view of what Jesus was doing.
Today, I am holding this idea outward, with an open hand. Perhaps it will stay. Perhaps not. I see some language in the bible that suggests it. I see some value at it. I can be a bit fickle. Perhaps I will be ready to throw it away, again, tomorrow.
But the thing that got me thinking about all this was a podcast I was listening to this morning. Michael Gungor, one of my heroes, started talking about transactional relationships with God. I assumed what he said next was going to relate to Jesus’ death.
But he went a whole different direction. He was talking about the deals we make with God. ‘God please do this for me.’ ‘God, if you do x, I will do y’, ‘God I need…’ Gungor goes on to suggest that the alternative foundation for connecting with God is embodied in Mother Theresa’s often-quoted description of her prayer life: she states that she listens to God listening to her. (Forgive the vast oversimplification of Mother Theresa’s words; it is worth looking up.)
I am thinking that maybe there is a connection between seeing Jesus’ death as transactional and seeing our relationship with him as transactional. On a broader level, I know that some of my own relationships with other people have been ones where we abided in a love for each other, like Mother Theresa. Others have been built around mutual exchanges and need.
Most, of course, are somewhere between these two extremes. But the older I get, the more sure I am: I would rather engage in loving than exchanging stuff.
I never knew
(how could I?)
About the giving and the taking.
Those rings and vows, all those years ago.
They were the easy part.
And if I am
any sort of man
It’s only, ever been
that made me so.
And if I gave you the springtime of my life
I took yours in its place…
And if the truth were to be told here,
our summer days are shrinking as we enter this fall.
and I never thought it would be a fall, this glorious fall.
I spent all that time
trying not to fall.
I wish I had thrown my arms up and my head back
And embraced this glorious fall.
God reached into the dirt, and kissed it. And suddenly, it was alive!
That first human was made in the image of God. It seems that it came with the breath itself.
I have been thinking about how Eve was made from Adam’s rib. And wondering how God’s image works through all of this.
It could be that God’s image was just copied into both of them.
But given all the stuff that is said about sex and marriage, and it seems like maybe a separate part of his image ends up in both of them. God’s image isn’t copied, it is broken in two, and Adam and Eve each get a part.
(This seems to connect with the second creation account, that occurs later in Genesis.)
Here’s the pretty amazing thing about this possibility:
It puts to bed all the talk about God as a ‘he.’ It locates the divine in the feminine and the masculine.
God the father and mother! So much more robust and liberating then just choosing one or the other. A pretty cool thing.
My friend Hafiz
spoke to me
across these thousands of miles,
these hundreds of years.
He told me how they all waited for God to speak.
And they cried when he did not.
I have been there.
Crying those tears with them.
Tonight was different though.
The wind let go of the dirt it had been carrying.
It stopped pushing those branches gently aside.
The birds stopped their bickering.
The clouds stood still in the sky.
Tonight, all the lights turned green as we waited for God to speak.
This eager hush fell over the crowds.
Those lucky enough to be scratching the gray coating off their lottery tickets…
All came up winners.
Tonight, we all waited for God to speak.
Just as they had waited, hundreds of years ago.
That waiting itself.
that we needed.