I’ve avoided my quiet time, for time on Facebook, hoping to pick up crumbs that might set my day straight better than the terror I’m finding there. Often I find stuff, like this morning when Elizabeth Gilbert told us to go toward our fear, not away. She quoted Jack Canfield. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I commented, “I’m locked up thinking about my next blog post and my novel is coming out and it feels like a big disruption and I have this horse that is asking me to be more confident than I am.”
My heart hurts. It’s drawn tight as a bow string, and I breathe down, and deep, hoping to scoop underneath it, calm it. I tell Morgen that I am like this and she looks at me with bright eyes. She listens when I tell her to walk carefully over ice. Tessie nuzzles me, reminding me that I have forgotten to thank her for standing quietly, while her hay is waiting.
I try to read the Bible as a drawing of what happens between people and God, a sketch of what happens between people and people. There is truth that works me over, sometimes so much so that I am raw. I feel like I’m walking down a dark, snowy road and my feet and hands burn with cold.
I picked up Isaiah sometime around Christmas because his work shows up in church. I love the prophets, their struggle with God and their people, the pain of the message they speak but I don’t get Isaiah–the ferocity of jumbled images about the day of the Lord, Advent, the Lord’s coming.
I can’t cut the parts where God throws his fury at us like so many armies marching over quiet countries that have gone bad. I can’t just read how he will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes, so I read about how rich and poor, spiritual and carnal, alike will starve, how the earth will turn to a desert, and people become rare as snow leopards. The words scare my heart tight.
Then there’s this week’s news. California has dried up and the feds won’t open the water for cities and gardens, gardens we depend on for food. The sun has flipped its poles so weakly, some scientists think we’re in for a mini ice age. Our neighbor said he heard there would not be a growing season in North America someday between now and 2025. England is under water. Winter here has set a freeze in the ground so deep, I wonder when it will thaw enough for farmers to plant. People are being murdered in Venezuela for walking down the street.
The words themselves, draw my fear back. “See the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it…the earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (Isa. 24: 1, 5-6. NIV)
This Isaiah, can glimmer with passages about deserts turning to springs, people who wait on God, (I think of the woman who comes to my table asking if I need anything), drawing their wings so powerfully the air catches like it does for eagles. I read about a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And the baby born of a virgin, and light shining in the dark, that we read before Christmas. But I wonder how could a loving God rant so, flinging atrocities at the people he claims to love? In one image He brags about a sword dripping with fat. In another people are cringing in fear under mountains.
So where’s this love that is supposed to be so broad it spans the universe? So how could He? How. Could. He? My answer came in pictures a friend posted, that I won’t repost, of a man burned like a pine log, white men standing behind him, something warm, squirmy in their eyes. It came in the words Sue Monk Kidd wrote in The Invention of Flight, “Her dress is cotton, a pale yellow color. I stare transfixed as the back of it sprouts blood, blooms of red that open like petals. I cannot reconcile the savagery of the blows with the mellifluous way she keens or the beauty of the roses coiling along the trellis of her spine. Some counts the lashes–is it Mother?” (11). It came in that famous video of Midway Island, where the birds eat plastic–soda caps, toothbrushes, shopping bags.
I am an American. The prosperity I enjoy, was built, way back, on the backs of slaves. Whose to say my fingers haven’t touched that plastic choking those birds? So maybe we draw this rage on ourselves. And the people we hurt, are glad to see justice rain on their behalf, maybe even the broken birds, call for this. And we are so clueless, that when we see the storm bearing down, we eat, drink, spend money like there is no tomorrow. When we need to stop, we need to turn around. We need to stop hating, stop pouring plastic into the world. We need to share our wealth. We need that old cranky word, Repent.
Kissing Fish:Christianity for Those Who Don’t Like Christianity just posted this quote from Basil of Caesura, “The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit.”
The clothes in my closet, the extra blankets, my extra books, all that stuff reproaches me. My students whose parents are out of work, or ill, who work late and then study or join the Army to pay for the education they must have, gentle students who tell their stories, reproach me. They take my breath for their unselfish concern about their parents. And I have things to spare.
This repentence stuff? It’s the most hard. (People say you can’t change others, only yourself, but I disagree. Changing me, well, that’s beyond me.) I can see why the rich man walked away from Jesus when Jesus invited him to sell everything. I could see him overwhelmed by the work of it, the common sense of holding onto enough, so as not to need welfare himself.
All I can say is that I opened my Bible this morning again, after a few hours on Facebook and found something about fear, maybe words just for me. “I took you from the corners of the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’;I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God…Those who wage war agains you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isa. 41: 9, 10a, 13 NIV). So somehow in my inability to turn, to be good, to sell it all, I can do that other thing he tells us, I can hunker down and rest in his love. After all when the disciples wondered how anyone could be saved, as they watched the rich man walk away, Jesus said nothing, nothing was impossible with God.