Holy Week Wednesday

All is quiet; not quite still.
A mourning dove repeats his trill,
“I am here, I am here.”

The sun is chary of the sky.
A sparrow ventures to reply,
“Right here, right here, right here.”

Though it’s morning, light is dim.
Shadows are approaching Him,
drawing near, drawing near.

Clouds grow darker through the day.
A freshening wind touches His face.
He swallows down His fear.

Evening dies into the West.
His heart knows, and His jaw is set.
The way ahead is clear.

At table with the ones He loves,
outside the walls He hears the dove
again call, “I am here.”

~ Rebekah Choat

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Familiar Shadow

image by Rebekah Choat

image by Rebekah Choat

Familiar shadow, in whose company
I travel often in the failing light,
your presence has no terror left for me:
we simply walk, as long companions might,
in silence. We move slowly through the rain
and cold, and even when the sun comes out,
its brightness only serves to make more plain
your shape beside me. You linger about
my campsite, or just up around the bend,
ready to join me as I journey on.
You stay with me, as faithful as a friend,
not always close, but never really gone.

So now as morning breaks in clouds of grey,
we’ll go as fellow-travelers on our way.

~ Rebekah Choat

The Storming of the Fortress

Words hard as stone bombard the castle walls,
hurled with precision to break my defense,
all heedless of the wintry rain that falls.
A breach is opened in the outer fence.

The gate shivers beneath unflinching blows,
and soon the dauntless warrior gains the keep.
I hide myself, but all too well he knows
the passages that lead into the deep

and lightless chamber where my soul would stay
in silent shadows rather than surrender.
His footsteps near, and now the door gives way.
His grip is strong — but, oh, his voice is tender!

I give myself up; finally I see:
he frees me from myself, in spite of me.

~ Rebekah Choat

 

Shadows, Part Six

image copyright Joel Brotzman

image copyright Joel Brotzman

shad – ow (n):  a relected image

 I find this image, taken by my brother, intriguing.  I’m fascinated with how the trees and shrubs and algae, so much green mingled together, are crowded and hard to distinguish from each other; yet the shadow reflected on the surface of the pond is somehow serene, and shows a crisply clear image of a treetop not itself visible in the picture.

I had a good talk with a good friend last night.  Big, important things are happening in both our lives – so quickly in mine that it’s something of a blur, so slowly in his that there hardly seems to be any progress at all.  At either pace, it’s hard, nearly impossible sometimes, to see things clearly, to find a focal point.

My friend and I serve as sounding boards and mirrors for each other.   We can pour out our jumbled thoughts and mixed feelings and talk things through and share different perspectives until somehow our vision comes a little clearer.  Once in a while we can even see a lovely reflection of a beauty not visible in the current frame of the picture.

Shadows, Part Five

Shadow:  (1) an inseparable companion or follower  (2) pervasive and dominant influence

The son of a well-known minister of the gospel ended his own life a few nights ago.  By all accounts, he was a loving and beloved young man, sensitive and compassionate to the pain of others.  Despite his parents’ and his own best efforts to find help through medicine, counseling, and God knows how much prayer, he succumbed to the shadow.

I think it is truly impossible for people who have not had close dealings with mental illness to grasp how dogged a companion depression is, how deep and all-encompassing its reach.

I don’t know why the most carefully-tailored medication regimens, the most faithfully-followed lifestyle adjustment programs, the most empathetic counseling, the most fervent prayers don’t effect a cure.  But for many of us, they don’t.  We function well most of the time:  we work productively, we interact successfully with those around us.  We experience moments of genuine happiness.  We are grounded in grace and we have ardent hope for the future.  But the shadow is never fully dispelled.  It is only exiled just out of sight, always hovering, seeking new avenues by which to darken our thoughts, testing old ones again and again.  I don’t know why.

Shadows, Part Four

path in shadow

shadow:  a shaded or darker portion of a picture

‘The story of Jesus is full of darkness as well as of light.  It is a story that hides more than it reveals.  It is the story of a mystery we must never assume we understand and that comes to us breathless and broken with unspeakable beauty at the heart of it yet by no means a pretty story.’  ~ Frederick Buechner, ‘The Two Stories,’ A Room Called Remember p 51

We call it Good Friday, this darkest day in the history of the church.  We don’t understand.  We, like the disciples, are so often sleepy, bewildered, unable to grasp the significance of what is happening.  We’d prefer to avert our eyes, to fast –forward from the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday right on to the triumphal resurrection of Easter.

But this is the story as it happened.  These dark hours are the hinge-pin upon which all that went before and all that comes after turns.  The shadows cannot be skirted; they must be walked through.

 ‘When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.  And while they were eating, he said, ’I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.’  Matthew 26:20-21

 ‘Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death.’  Matthew 27:1

 ‘From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  Matthew 27:45-46

 ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.’  Matthew 27:50

Shadows, Part Three

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shadow:  a state of ignominy or obscurity

ignominy:  public shame or disgrace

obscurity:  the state of being unknown, inconspicuous or unimportant; the state of being difficult to understand

Despite the progress made over the past several decades in both the medical community and the general public toward better understanding mental health, any form of psychological disease still carries a stigma in some churches and some families.

My first major depressive episode began when I was seventeen.  My mother and I talked about it, once.  The only ‘solution’ she offered was that I could go talk to the youth pastor.  I didn’t; I already knew well enough that in that church, at that time, it was understood that Christians had no reason to be depressed, and if I just prayed about it I’d feel better, and if I didn’t feel better I was harboring some wrong in my heart that I needed to confess and pray through.

So rather than exposing myself to certain lack of understanding, rather than bringing down disgrace and shame upon myself and my family, I put up an acceptable façade and made my true self as inconspicuous as possible.  Thus began a years-long sojourn in the shadows, during which the real Rebekah shrank to an unknown entity, even to myself.