On Our Knees

On Our Knees

We were not meant to know this evil.

We are on our knees
trying to stem the tide
of that which we were not
meant to know.
hands inept—ravaged and torn.

We were not meant
to bear in tender flesh
such intimate knowledge:
evil's searing pain,
prolonged stench of indelible ash.

This knowledge would betray us.

We grabbed the limbs of self-deception
eager to climb her rungs
shaking loose like pollen
clouds of arrogance, brutality
convoluted delusions of entitlement.

Voracious we climb. Why???

Still we are on our knees
intention desperate
flood held— just shy of our consumption
by unhidden promise
stretched out before Noah

And kept.

We have been meant, always
to wear the knowledge of God's Presence—garden green
but sadly trade  for sheep's clothing
choosing, still.
We are the wolves.

Set down thy thirst and fisted fork!
BEHOLD the deeds of the Lord
see the work of his hands—
they, too, are naked and torn.
We are on our knees...

jfig    4/2021

For months, with so many of you, I have listened to cries of distress across our nation and asked, What is wrong with our humanity? Probed the more puzzling question,  How did we get here, still? And wrestled with the disturbing, How am I complicit? I find myself begging for hope that will reach beyond my own boundaries and capacity. The title “On Our Knees” comes from this hint of desperation.  Our collective answers to these questions appear to fall far short of understanding; and the days appear to grow darker… My thoughts return again and again to these passages: Genesis 2 and Isaiah 5. Genesis 2 which describes Eve reaching for what she thinks is an edible fruit, but missing the end of the sentence…  She misses it again in Genesis 3, when Satan clearly states,  ” Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil(emphasis mine).”  Oh, how we want to be like God; in control and power and knowing. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…“1  And Isaiah 5  – a detailed litany of our continuing misguided appetites. I like Isaiah 5 because it does not tell me that I am all wrong. It tells me, because you do this, you still hunger and thirst. It gives me a list from which to choose; and I only have to absorb in my skin, the woe over which I trip. From its core, Isaiah 5 is also actionable. These passages have provided space from which to begin to understand what I see, feel, hear. Slowly, this reflection is beginning to shed light on where I act entitled, in my interactions with neighbors and friends, in the check-out line and with my spouse… I have friends who are convinced they play no part in systemic racism. I understand—it is frightening to consider the ramifications.

Self deception has no respect for color. We have poured in buckets of every hue imaginable. I believe it is important to ask ourselves the disturbing questions. Midst much chaos, it has helped to have some sense of where to begin.  I hope you find these passages helpful as well.

Bravely, jfig

1) Genesis 3:16,17. The Holy Bible, ESV 2001 by Crossway, Wheaton, IL. (www.esvbible.org)

Genesis 2:9,16-17; 2:25; Genesis 3:5-6

Isaiah 5, particularly 8-24

Genesis 2:16-17  But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

“Genesis 2 (NLT) – So the creation of the.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 24 Apr, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gen/2/1/p1/s_2001&gt;.

Isaiah 5:12b “but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands.”

“Isaiah 5 (ESV) – They have lyre and harp.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 24 Apr, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/isa/5/12/p1/s_684012&gt;.

Questions in the Margins: Hold You in My Heart

This poem is written to and for persons of color, your family and friends, in response to expressions of persistent pain and suffering you experience due to racial injustice.  In the Book of Philippians, Paul and Timothy write, “I hold you in my heart,” to the believers in Philippi. Believers who at least symbolically, were among those Paul had previously persecuted, even unto death. This poem is loosely patterned after that prayer.  Philippians 1:1-7

Hold you in my heart

 

I hold you in my heart

reaching out blood-tinged hands

across the barriers of history

to gather broken pieces of your soul

out of the ashes.

I don’t presume to

‘put you back together’

but to hold your story

as the sacred missive it is,

and lean with you toward

One Who Can Heal.

 

I hold you in my heart

defenses momentarily unlaced

by a glimpse – mere glimpse

of your suffering,

the color of your blood

draining ochre into the soil

on which we now stand.

Stand?

Nay, walk…

for this is a journey;

wretched soil for all of us

to leave behind.

 

I hold you in my heart

examining the color of mine

to ask where it might celebrate—yours.

wake late to the dream

birthed out of your nightmare;

that the passages that carried you through the night to freedom

might tunnel through the dark once more

bring me to your door

in a fellowship of love, art

music, work, laughter

and the overarching  grace of Christ’s righteousness.

 

I hold you in my heart

(it takes such a long while to quiet its thunderous beating)

I purpose to wait;

to not simply acquiesce

in verbal acknowledgement of complicity,

but to wrestle with the discomfort

until I can hear the faint, strengthening beat

of life’s muscle in your chest.

This is a labor of love.

 

I hold you in my heart

Your freedom is not for sale

Truth is, one cannot buy, nor sell, freedom;

Our freedom was purchased

before black or white or red ever set foot on this shore.

But I would like to scour stains

of what it has cost to realize your freedom,

by the washing of your feet;

pour the oil of joy instead of mourning

into the fissures in your soles

that black feet might dance once more.

I hold you in my heart

jfig  6/2020

RW joy hearts

jfig     6/2020

The journey to acknowledge white privilege has been messy for me.  If it were not for confidence in the grace which Paul describes, I doubt I could engage the difficult questions. #stillonjourney

Scripture reference is Philippians 1:1-7 Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, 2016 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.