Everlasting

image “Remembrance” by Anna Sircar
reflection by Amy Kortus
Psalms 41, 44, and 52
Isaiah 8: 16-9: 1
2 Peter 1: 1-11
Luke 22: 39-53
 

Image Remembrance ASircar

“Tiger Tiger” by William Blake

 

TIGER, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water’d heaven with their tears,

Did He smile His work to see?

Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

(Note: This July, we lost Thomas’s father, Joel, quite suddenly to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.)

This year I chose William Blake’s “Tiger Tiger” for our fall homeschool poetry unit.  I also have been using it, line by line, as a devotion in the mornings with the kids.  I think I have done this as much for my benefit as theirs; there is so much I do not understand about Blake’s Tiger, most notably, the breathless finale of the fifth stanza ending in the innocent question, “Did He who made the lamb make thee?”  And, to complicate the question, how do I understand God’s promise of everlasting mercy in light of the ferocity and pain that comes with the image of the Tiger?

To begin with, I do not understand everlasting.  Nothing within my reach or memory is everlasting.   Certainly of all the things that surround me, tangible and intangible, I am the least everlasting.  The bowl that holds the apples we picked last week, under reasonable circumstances, will outlive me.  It may venture to a different state; be passed down to my children, end up in a thrift store. It could see the invention of a silent, waste-less automobile and the extinction of the telephone.  The apples in the bowl, ripe and smelling faintly of cider, probably will not outlive me. But the branches, the seeds, the flowers fruit and stem, the entire fecundate cycle of life in that one apple true will outlive me.  My teapot will almost certainly outlive me.  It will never need a root canal or see the physical therapist.  It will never get sleep apnea or glasses or arthritis.

Unpacking for Christmas this year we found a creche that Joel sent last year, made of driftwood.  He sent it unassembled, and we never got around to nailing the sides together, so when we unpacked it we found his handwriting scrawled in black ink on painter’s tape, labeling “left” and “top.”  His handwriting, which feels just a hair’s breath away from his hand.  How can these inconsequential pieces of driftwood–scraps and bits gathered from the discards on the beach–have survived when he did not?

Can the dead, from where they are now, see and feel for us?  If they are, as N.T. Wright believes, not yet in the new heaven and new earth (the last and final resurrection), what can they witness of us?  Or do they care to witness?  Have they already forgotten this “great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us?”  Will, as Marilyn Robinson suggests, this world be Troy, and all that has passed here the ballad they sing in the streets? Or will it be a something fainter than a memory, like a dream you wake from and only vaguely recall–contours, maybe, and a feeling or a color–a pattern brings back something–or a face makes you think maybe you remember–but then you put it behind you as the day broadens with its realities (make the coffee) and demands (check email), the tangible solid things at hand put this other shapeless dream out of your mind–will that be all?

These are questions for which I may not find answers.  But here is my resting place for now: we have an everlasting God.  Even if I do not understand the concept of everlasting, I must believe in the promise. And I can understand what it is not. Everlasting is not Awhile, Sometimes, or Until. It is a word that is as foreign to our minds as a God making both a meek lamb and a fierce killer tiger, as God making a world filled both with incredible beauty and excruciating suffering. How can we not, in the wake of Newtown, ask these unanswerable questions?  But the real test will be what we do in the meantime, in this time, until we fully find in Him our answers.

1 Comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

One response to “Everlasting

  1. Raelene Sutherland

    exquisite writing and very thought-provoking. You have an amazing gift, Amy.

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