You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2008.
A lot actually, but maybe mostly by extension and it’s not much to look at. Rather, it’s too too much to look at.
And a few other scattered thoughts on this day:
I have been troubled–deeply troubled–by the Crucifixion from when I first perceived it. I am, I confess, still puzzled and disturbed to think that Justice and Wrath and a Father God could require it. At some level, faith compels me to understand the Father’s love in this awful, ugly moment–this cruel silence at the center of history–but it is a thin strand of faith, blind, indeed, and confused and frustrated. But nothing so consistently moves me as Christ’s sacrifice and, I suppose, in the final analysis, that the willing Son convinces me of His Father’s goodness.
I remember when I was a student and custodian at a Christian college that we all wondered why we, of all people, should attend classes, clean toilets and mop floors on what one could argue is the most holy of all days (rivaled, perhaps, by celebration of the Resurrection but certainly surpassing it in sobriety). Even the philistines take a day off from their trading and pursuit of Mammon to honor our Lord. And there we were at work. Then it occurred to me that Jesus worked on this day, perhaps harder than He ever had. And my complaints seemed more than a little silly.
That’s probably plenty from me. I’ll let Donne finish this post and, I hope, inspire a Godward reflection or two–or, truly, even if you don’t believe or serve a transcendent God, behold and consider the Man.
GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD
by John Donne
Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look’st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.
“The views and opinions . . .”
The primary motivation for most disclaimers we encounter is to cover the asses of corporate America and to hedge those asses against litigation (ha: a “hedge of protection,” indeed [inside joke for Evangelicals]). What they should really say is “we, the reigning plutocracy, are, in our great magnanimity, allowing the artist to speak, which we’d really rather not, but, well, just so long as you know not to blame his lunatic rantings on us.”
I don’t claim enough power for corporate America to worry about me (at least not yet). And, frankly, were I that powerful, I’d be ever so happy for the fiery darts to lodge precisely in the aforementioned, ample, posterior targets. I should might not have said that, but there I did. Sigh. There goes the publishing contract.
What I do claim is that people love me–and far more than I deserve. Indeed, that’s one of the things that most amazes me about life: that mine, in particular, has been–and is–full of all sorts of inexplicable love. And, no, it’s not because “I’m good enough” or “smart enough”; it’s just, as far as I can tell, because of grace. By virtue of some great cosmic Luck, I’m surrounded by loving people. And, lest there be any doubt, the credit for their loving me definitely goes to them and not to me.
That’s why I want to take the blame–for this blog, I mean. I’m as willing to make excuses as the next guy. The truth is, in what few words I’ve so far shared in this place, I already have more than once. I sometimes think of myself as erstwhile lord of the pathetic serfdom of prefaces, explanations and cautious contextualizers. The “erstwhile” is hopeful; you will, alas, probably see more. But when I make excuses, I want never to shift blame to those gracious souls whose admonitions–if only I’d have heeded them–and whose affection–if only I’d have fully accepted it–would have delivered me from a path that ends up with excuses.
Certainly, if you read anything profound in these pages, you can attribute it to the influence of, to name just a few (and I’m quite mindful this isn’t exhaustive in any sense), my departed beloved or my parents or my kid or or my siblings or the folks I fellowship with or, truly, the beautiful Spirit of Christ Himself (and God knows I will surely plagiarize badly from all of the above and from many others). But when I offend you, blame it on me. It’s probably my fault (or yours–but let’s not press that point quite yet); it’s almost certainly not theirs.
My being an offensive ass is, in fact, further testament to the character of those people who love me, and I hope you’ll understand it that way. For instance, instead of saying “Those Christians are all idiots (or pathological or pathetic or hypocritical or, ahem, verbose). Why would I want anything to do with Christ?” you ought rather to say “It’s true, then, that the love of Christ knows no bounds; how else could He put up with such an annoying, insipid buffoon? If He puts up with that, he can surely put up with me.” I venture to say you’d do well to adopt that perspective whenever Christians speak–probably especially the ones who claim to speak on Christ’s behalf. But we’ll discuss that in greater depth in the days ahead. For now, please, as best you can, don’t blame my being an idiot or obnoxious on Jesus or on anyone but me. I assure you, I’d be worse without them. And I’d like, despite myself, somehow to honor them.
So, this is mine. I claim it–not so much with pride, but with a sheepish apology and in the hope that you won’t blame it on anyone who rather deserves your respect. I guess, then, you should call this prefatory excuse not a disclaimer but a, uh, “claimer.” (Yep. See? That “claimer” thingy–that’s all me. Unless you like it. In which case, I almost certainly stole it and, what’s worse, I’ve forgotten from whom.)