Today, this is favorite poem, published in Dialogue 41:2 (Summer)
Here’s the first half:
By Annette Weed
I’m wedged between two lifetimes,
this one and that.
Like cement walls on either side,
they press close.
“What is okay for you is not for me,”
she taunts me, this daughter of mine,
letting me know she will not settle
for what I have settled for.
She will choose something all her own,
playing neither father’s game nor mine.
I will need to work on these walls myself,
without her help, without her lovely presence,
a kind of lace on concrete…
I read the poem yesterday and have since been contemplating the idea of walking through walls, as Christ did after His resurrection. And frankly, the discussion of Thomas Marsh and the real history behind the story of the milk strippings has made me think about giving or taking offense, and “walking through walls” to find the real person behind the story. I’m not talking about just the events in the Marsh/Harris history, but the ways we’ve discussed the history. In telling the whole story, some rather unsavory details have been revealed about other players in the drama, such as Brigham Young. How do we respond generously to him? Some of his actions or words create barriers to many of us in the 21st Century. (Was he just a rude man, or was he a good-natured fellow who loved a laugh–even at someone else’s expense?)
As a writing teacher, I lead my students through the walls of their fears to get to the raw, often difficult details their hearts want to write about. As a mother, I try to walk through the walls of my children’s insecurities to give them some hint of how glorious they are (though the fact that I’m their mother usually makes my evaluation moot, dismissed because “mothers HAVE to say things like that”). As a daughter or a neighbor, I return to bad memories with insights my own passages and initiations have brought, and am often able to generously view events which once embittered me. The hardest walls to walk through are those I’ve created myself and reinforced by building an altar, as it were, to a bad choice or an offense—whether my own or someone else’s. I am capable of worshiping the moment of separation rather than preparing for at-one-ment. Thus, the altar becomes a fort.
Ephesians 2:14 says of Christ: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.
The trick is to LET HIM effect the miracle.
When my brother was seriously (almost fatally) injured, Dad rushed to the E.R. There, my brother lifted his arms from the ganglia of tubes and managed to form one word: “Hug.” Dad, who had never been terribly demonstrative, maneuvered himself around the tubes so he could hug his wounded son.
Metaphorically, the walls or the tubes might be perceptions, preferences, or habits which come between us and those we are called to love (namely everyone–and not just in the present). They must be spiritually transcended. Dogma won’t do it, and physical fighting can land you in jail. Something in us must love enough to leave our mortal instincts and transcend our prejudices so that we can “walk through walls” or make our way around and through the tangle of invisible tubes all hooked to an incomprehensible life- or dignity-support machine.
I recall angry feelings I nurtured long ago because someone I loved was being mistreated. As I prayed, I wanted God to do an Old Testament sort of thing and rain down fire upon the offender’s head. The answer–almost verbally audible–was “You don’t know their pain.”
It’s a good sentence to remember as we catch an unruly teenager doing yet another stupid thing, as we endure one more complaint by someone who never stops complaining, as we hear someone lash out with hyperbole that would make us laugh if the person weren’t so serious, as we observe the social fool display his foolishness yet again. We don’t know their pain. We don’t see how many hard-to-bear tubes lead from their wounds to life support, and are keeping them from mobility in more joyful realms, nor do we guess how deep and even life-threatening these wounds are.
The Savior would “walk through walls” to get even to the doubting Thomas, would embrace the disciple who denied him thrice, would speak peace to the most obviously plagued leper, and tell a sinful woman that her sins were forgiven, for she had “loved much.”
This is how the poem ends:
And so I do, mastering
new arts which give
the power to walk through walls,
to skip through time, to spin—
only with Christ’s help—
hate into gold,
strands of sparkling filigree
so bright, so true, they are
the only things I can recognize
can grasp, more real than iron,
to transcend the walls. Praise God.