On Poetry, Legalism, and Love

September 19th, 2012 § 3,276

I set my alarm early yesterday so that I would be productive. Productive is a euphemism for valuable.

The sky was white, and there was something particular about the chill of the morning  that tugged me towards a blanket and a stack of newly-acquired poetry books. As I flipped through the pages, reading words exact and clean, I remembered beauty.

I was surprised by it, as if three-and-a-half minutes earlier I didn’t know beauty existed. What chronic amnesia!

How quick I am to forget—there is beauty, here, now. In the steam rising off my tea. In the seconds hand chattering happily on the wall-clock. In the texture of the soft, chunky-woven blanket against my skin.

It was an extravagant morning, God kissing me with poems on a Tuesday.

This, of course, got me thinking about grace (poetry will do that to person), and I was thinking about how profoundly backwards my heart is most all of the time.

My heart feels as though it is hard to love God, to give God devotion. But sitting with the scrupulous imagery of Sexton and Oliver, I remembered this as complete nonsense.

Deep down, my heart believes I can do quite well at this loving-God business. If you’re anything like me, it is profoundly more difficult to receive God’s love, as a poem on a Tuesday.

And not because I think I am horrible or bad or disgusting.

But because my heart is given to the idea that I am actually quite marvelous, that I can be good enough and work hard enough and achieve well enough. My heart is given to the idea that Jesus didn’t accomplish it all—that there is more of my value left to secure, more of my worth left to prove, more of God’s affection left to earn.

There isn’t.

This is the wretched, suffocating, miserable, lonely law of self-justification.

The thing about it is, any self-respecting person quickly realizes that accepting free, unconditional love means that you can’t earn it—that you don’t deserve it—and this cuts against what any self-respecting person builds their identity on. I landed on the thought that we all operate in legalism mode, we all suffer under the law of proving ourselves, of being good and behaving rightly, up until the point where our tangled, crippled, needy hearts are leveled by God’s love—released by the Incarnate One from the laws we cling to and were born breaking.

The other day I heard a friend say that God is the devoted one; that God is, always has been, and always will be the first lover. This is good news. And 99.9% of the time I know this cognitively, as a nice thought, like unicorns or traveling first-class.

But yesterday, amidst the poems and the white-sky morning, I glimpsed for a brief moment the reality that God loves me, that He has spoken beauty in front and behind and on top of me, that His grace is not a far-off, fancy, theoretical idea, but that it is here, now, today, helping me off the rat-wheel of self-addiction.

I was made to enjoy Him.

I was made to enjoy Him.

He kissed me with poems on a Tuesday, and has called me to receive them.


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