For all the while I hurl my hurts at heaven,
Believing I besiege the battlement,
Of God’s invulnerable heart and haven,
I strike at emptiness, at my own bafflement,
I shake my fist in fury at a shadow.
For he is not like us nor are his ways
Like ours. He left that heaven’s haven long ago
And broke our siege. A voice behind me says:
Why do you weep and rage at heaven above? I have come down to die here in the dirt, Your wounds have wounded me, for I am Love And in my heart I hold your deepest hurt. Oh turn around, return, and face me here Your slightest prayer will pierce me like a spear.
This light is muffled, muted, murky, dense,
Thick with a threat of thunder unreleased.
The clouds are darkening, the air grows tense,
The coming storm is lowering in the east
Something within me trembles too, and pales,
Though no one sees the brooding darkness there,
Or feels the tension building between poles
Of faith and doubt, of vision and despair.
Everything deepens, gathers to a head:
Anguish and anger at my absent God
Until the charge of all that’s left unsaid
Leaps out at last to find its lightening rod.
But even as the skies are rent and riven
I find that lightening rod is earthed in heaven.
Exhausted by my own siege engine’s roar,
The clatter and the rattle of my prayer,
I drop, defeated, at his bolted door,
And sink awhile in silence and despair.
Is there another way to come at him,
Who seems so distant in his might and power?
I have no wings to rise like seraphim
So I begin to build the sinners tower,
Returning to that folly back in Babel.
Effort and elevation are my aim,
As though by my own powers I were able
To overwrite the nameless with my name.
But just before the summit and the crown
A voice in darkness calls: ‘let us go down’.
Here in this shadowed valley, dark and bleak,
We lay a bitter siege against the one
Who was our heart’s desire, but now withdraws
Behind his battlements. Our prayers just break
Against what seem like walls of silent stone.
We make an engine of our injuries,
And vault at God a volley of our sorrows:
All the despair and anger that we feel.
The catapult of our catastrophes
Hurls up its heavy load, and flights of arrows
Clatter against his walls, fall back and fail.
How can we make him feel our miseries?
We fling back famine at him, torture, cancer,
Is he almighty then? Has he no answer?
Down into the icy depths you plunge,
The cold dark undertow of your depression,
Even your memories of light made strange,
As you fall further from all comprehension.
You feel as though they’ve thrown you overboard,
Your fellow Christians on the sunlit deck,
A stone-cold Jonah on whom scorn is poured,
A sacrifice to save them from the wreck.
But someone has their hands on your long line,
You sound for them the depths they sail above,
One who takes Jonah as his only sign
Sinks lower still to hold you in his love,
And though you cannot see, or speak, or breathe,
The everlasting arms are underneath.
Breathe in and in that breathing be created,
Wake from the dust, be conscious, and inhale,
Fresh from the Word and Light of God, delighted,
You find you have become a living soul.
But soon you must breathe out. What’s to be done?
Who will be with you then? And will you dare
To trust the breath of life back to the one
Who breathed it into you? Christ comes to share
Your letting go; you hear him sigh and say Father into your hands receive my spirit
And find that he has opened up the way
For you as well. He takes your breath to bear it
Deep into heaven with him in his death,
That you might be reborn with every breath.
Conceiving is the fun part—
The Plaything full of air,
It is breathing, without seizing,
Just giving, and with flair.
–Not taking or wasting—
So Begins the bliss of The Idea,
Writing is like giving Birth,
Foundational her conceiving
To the growth of earthling’s seeding,
It is worthy: breathing…breeding.
This Giving Life at first is easy:
Oh, conception very pleasing!
Ivan Ilyich labored his entire life in the pursuit of worldly success. He made decisions based on a list of society’s materialistic requirements: attend the right school to secure a prestigious job, climb the corporate ladder, marry out of duty and support the requisite family, move to a lovely house in the suburbs embellished with the perfect furnishings. By the world’s standards, Ivan was succeeding because he was following a formula and achieving “the good life.” Leo Tolstoy wrote The Death of Ivan Ilyich shortly after his conversion (circa 1870) but the theme of the story is timely poignant for today.