Thursday, May 21, 2009

Imago Dei

A friend of mine from college is now student-teaching an english class in Seattle. They just had a guest poet speak in her class to the students and it proved to be a powerful time for both her and the students as his words were piercing. When one girl asked if there was any one experience or thought that showed up in almost all of his writing, he admitted that religion did. Although he didn't get specific, he DID say that he had been told once that he was going to go to hell for being himself, and he stated adamantly that he didn't believe THAT anymore. It was clear that he had been shown a face of religion that all too many people are shown-- that of judgement, anger, and condemnation, rather than love, welcome, and grace.
I have heard similar versions of this same story over and over in several conversations lately with people who have been hurt and wounded by the church and its people. After the Imago prayer night and praying that we would truly be image bearers of Christ, I just found this poem to be so pertinent, chilling and true. May we all be the Imago Dei.

Note: This is NOT my poem (though I wish I had written it!) This is the poem my friend wrote after hearing the poetry of a man who had walked away from the church with battle-scars. I just wanted to share it.


"There are no scars on His hands or His wrists," he says"
But my heart is clenched like a fist," he says"
What else could it be, when they shouted out 'Hell!' to a boy who was only being himself? And these sinners, these speakers, they unfurled floods of anger, they sneered while condemning their own vice and dangers, they steered their church across my knees, I see train wrecks, I see ship wrecks, I hear them speak, 'You: fault line, no straight lines where you come from,' they said, they said, they said to me.

"Angels make wings, right? They fly, right?
"But the feathers I found were only rubbed-out eyelashes for wishes made upon,
"Wish for light,
"Wish for wholeness,
"She put me to bed, said 'Sweet dreams son,' but running is all I dream about.

"I want wishes, I want light,
"And she pulls out her lashes to get me through the night.
"She says, 'One of these days, we'll both wake up with grace on our pillows.'

"I tried to follow.

"They said flames, they named names, but when I offered up mine,
"They said, 'Beast, away,'
"I looked for light, I looked for freedom, I tried to fly but hit the ceiling,
"There was no light switch, there was no quick fix, I said the prayer, I said, 'Pick me then!'
"But what I found was cold religion.

"'Do as I say, not as I do.
"'He forgives sinners, except sinners like you.
"'Toe the line kid, and do it our way
"'Take up the cross or rue the day
"'You didn't.

'"Just myself," he says.
"I was just myself
"And they said that that
"Was plenty hell-worthy."

I take it in.
I ache within,
I've said those words,
I've dug a hole for burials of lesser souls
I've nailed the lid on the coffin.
I confess. I confess.

I confess, I did.
And I look at a man with residue
Of religion gone wrong, of God misused.
He cried out for help, and he got abuse, and I'm sorry, I'm sorry

I'm sorry, I did.

We should have said, come as you are.
Should have said, right there too.
Should have said, I'll just listen
Since speaking is so over-used.
And no shaking fingers,
No skeptical foreheads
The face He had
Could not have been the face you read
From us.

Where do I begin?

Is there water to wash the damage, to clean off the face of a Lord we've mangled, to wipe the eyebrows to clean the nail beds, are there waves to recreate the music we've savaged? Is there water to make the sunrise, to send up steam for reflective cloud skies shape them in angels, shape out the feathers, send down a real one to a boy still asleep, send it to the boy who is running through dreams, send it then, send him grace, send him grace on his pillow.

Rouse him gently.

Show him a face of kindness first.
Don't speak, don't hurt, just deepen eyes,
Soften your breathing,
Just show him a sigh, show him healing.
If you open your mouth, you should only sing something lullaby,
Just quiet-like.
Let the light creep in through the window
And let that soften the harsher corners,
Let that ruffle the dusty curtains,
Let that chase away the spiders,
Let that reach into monster corners,
Let that blow the cobwebs and ashes,
He is just a boy, he is just


And that is loved. And that is worth holding.
Let the dawn break
On the heart that he's clutching.

I can't begin to apologize
For the lies the lies the lies the lies
That said you weren't acceptable.

Those words are damnable.

Should be a safe place to land
Should be a strong weathered hand
His face
Should say, "I understand,
"And I love you, I love you, I love you,
"It's love
"Like sand on the shore
"Like rain from the sky
"Like poppy weed buds that fire burst bright
"I love you like this
"I love you right now
"I love you running and aching and braving and shaking and falling and breaking again, and I loved you then
"And I loved you then
"And I loved you then, even then."

It's kindness
We missed it
It's mercy we forgot.
Instead of His words,
We sang funeral songs.

I confess,
And I'm sorry.
And I pray with my lashes,
That His face in the sunrise
Gives you grace
And not ashes.


karyn said...

"I love you running and aching and braving and shaking and falling and breaking again, and I loved you then
"And I loved you then
"And I loved you then, even then."

I love this. love it love it love it. The whole poem was beautiful, but this simple little bit just broke me. The "even then"... man... yeah.

Thanks for sharing, lovely.

thatoneguy said...

No skeptical foreheads