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Day Break On The Jabbok: Prayers

a poem in three days
Dedicated to the Memory of Mother Teresa Who Never Experienced Divine Assurance
Lord, why do you hide from me;
you who asked for a sanctuary
that you might dwell among us,
become our flesh, sent your
spirit that space and time
would not be an impediment
to your presence?
Where shall I look that I might find you,
gain an understanding of your mysterious ways?
Your priests sacrificed me for their sins.
Help came too late; I bled out on the altar.
How shall I live again?
My grave stone called out my name;
with the help of the helpless
I raised myself from the dead.
All were stunned at my hideous wound,
yet were skeptical of my report;
they faulted me in secret,
in my absence accused me of
the sin of injudiciousness.
I am waiting for a hearing.
Why, when I ask, do you refuse
to face my questions?
In your absence
I answer them for myself.
I’ve cut you a lot of slack;
it never seems enough.
I wait for you to keep your promises,
trying to understand the resilience
of my shunned devotion.
Release would come should I reject you,
yet I seek your hidden face.
My love brings pain like that
of one shunned by a lover.
My passion suffocated when
you ignored my surrendered spirit,
when you did not act on my behalf
for what I thought was good.
My confidence waned; your revelation
became opaque by virtue of my reason.
Once, my eyes shone with delight
at the assurance of your presence;
praise welled from my conditioned emotion.
I was blessed, strong of body and mind,
confident in the certainty of your word.
Then doubt overwhelmed me.
I saw my strength endowed
by chance from birth and earth,
my favored place an accident;
I mistook them for blessings,
the fruit of my surrendered will.
I empathized with those who suffered,
those more upright than I. Your love
seemed arbitrary and selective;
I lost assurance. It ebbed away
like life from a fatal wound.
Can love betrayed be born again, regain its strength?
While I cherished what was taught of you,
you moved away when I embraced it.
I felt forsaken, hearing echoes of another cry,
“My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me?”
Still, by my questions you posses me like a spirit,
your masked face smiling benignly.
I am man without a woman’s mind;
not a woman emerging from her conflict,
wrestling with a god of gender;
in her blood grasping for the father god,
pulling away a father’s face and cloak
to find no member.
Now, I understand the anguish of her cry;
stunned, she sought a mother’s love,
affection of the goddess.
Yet daughters find their mothers
do not freely share their ornaments,
or easily turn their faces to the light.
God and goddess, both exposed,
covering themselves until they vanish
in theophany, transformed into epiphany;
our deathless love, repenting of our sins,
praying for new understanding to a being
who slipped away in darkness,
while we kissed the face of God.
I listened while the righteous
defended your mysterious ways with lame excuses,
faulted my imperfect understanding,
bid me wait your gracious acts.
They are held hostage to timidity,
arrogance and apathy; hollow as a drum
responding to the drumstick.
I entered a labyrinth to find you,
the one who was to seek the lost.
I was trapped, baited like a bird to a snare;
when I felt the noose around my wings
and tried to fly away, it closed
around my neck.
You’ve driven me so deep inside
I pray in total darkness; from my arterial blood
my voice sounds choked, desperate to be heard,
struggling to stay alive.
My heart beats against the outer wall
Seeking entrance to my inner sanctum.
It hears no sound of life.
What of your claim on my heart,
this will to believe, the grief of longing
for your presence, to love
and be blessed with understanding?
I called out to you;
you abandoned me to silence.
What is the purpose of my mind?
You ask that I surrender all.
Where is your revelation that I may know
and not another declare it?
Did the understanding of my youth betray me,
my faith take root in hearsay?
How shall I be delivered from falsehood,
find surety in deception of a child?
My devotion was a weakness;
it left me vulnerable to imposters.
Should the one who formed and guides
the universe convince me by an illusion?
I am threatened, exposed to trickery;
Where shall I seek wisdom?
I cry out to the galaxies; do they hear
my cry and understand?
They too are governed by your word,
your inscrutable will, hurtling toward
impending doom.
Where in the circuitry of my brain
does our collective being emerge
beyond decay?
Is one of us the other’s thought?
The fossils in the rocks mock me.
Am I above the fate of these?
They taunt me with the odds of my preservation.
What potential lies in atoms
that molecules may bud eternal life?
If I perish the very thought of you;
there would be none to blame
for my distress; I would be freed
from trying to understand your ways.
Yet, is this what being human comes to:
deny my mind and passion of its source,
resign myself to an enigma?
Where shall I seek help for frailty,
where shall I find comfort?
Is there strength in my humanity,
beyond, in an emergent state?
Would it answer if I called?
I am abandoned by the many,
those who fear your unpredictable
wrath; they seek my ruin.
I live among a trusted few,
who offer strength through failure.
How weak I am that I should call
upon the dead, those whose names
are etched on silent stones.
They have no mouths to speak.
I call out their names
that I may hear them once again.
My thoughts descend to stir their dust;
my spirit mingles with the memory
of the loyal, those who lie below.
Yet I find no comfort.
They were flesh like me, ignorant as the dust.
With them, in joy, I laughed myself
to tears; now I laugh with resignation
to the folly of past faith, but shed no tears.
I live above the grave,
but am pulled down, beneath hope,
in darkness where there is no light.
In the struggle with my heart
I strike a spark and see a shadow.
I’ve found your hiding place.
You try to flee, but I’ve gained
strength from struggle.
My wounds have healed,
though I am scarred.
None need hold up my hands.
I grab you by the heel;
I will not let you go.
You will have to answer
when day breaks on the Jabbok.
A. Josef Greig is professor emeritus of religion and philosophy at Andrews University.
Look tomorrow for part two.

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