Adam had everything and still chose his Death, just like me. Adam destined to face evil and now I am here facing my own demons, just the same. I choose Death, but later Life comes. How can it be that Life erupts in a thunderous shout out of utter destruction? I’ve spent the better part of my life contemplating this. Sometimes I wrap myself in it gratefully like a warm flicker flame burning wax to liquid. At other times I throw my hands up in frustration because I can’t fathom it’s enormous depths and it makes my brain ache. But it is always there and I always return to it.
God made covenant with Abraham, a forever commitment and unalterable bond. A blood massacre contract etching out a promise unshattering: “I will always hold your descendents in my hand, and never let them go, no matter what it takes. And I know what it will take. My people of faith I will transform their souls and take out wall stones around their hearts and put in soft humility, understanding, and love.”
That covenant He kept until rancid end: seeking out us. People who turned on Him in unfaithful treason. Leaving homeland for the wasteland to find and bring back those who were left broken by war and famine. Giving perplexing but scandalous and wild hope. Dying in monstrous cruelty, horror, and ruinous betrayal in the wasteland after promising, “No one is greater than his master”. These people He had created for glory and life and love, who instead chose death and sadness and utterly hopeless lives, He came to erase it all away from them and wipe tears from eyes and push out lies of torment. Burn-searing our open, torn wounds shut that spew and spill our life source of blood….He closes and cauterizes and performs sawing-amputations and then offers His own blood, and let’s His own body be wracked by weapons and evils. His hands, covering over deep, knifed wounds into the flesh and bright red liquid pours out onto His fingers and palms, stained. All for Covenant He made with Abraham, the image He gave to Adam: these people He gave imprint to, and purpose, and value, a place in the story. These humans He gave life, mind and soul.
I can’t escape it or get away from it….this triumphant thumbprint signature and Covenant stained with slaughter that forever binds me. I need to be saved from this tragic wasteland of sweat, and muck, and graves. I need my disease amputated. I need to heal of scars and wounds. I need redemption because the God who saves me from myself is the God I have screamed at to let me alone, and I’ve cried out…crucify Him. Crucify His reality, be away from me! A slaughter of my own hands and heart. But this is the family I am born to. This is the family we are given inheritance from.
I am born from immigrants. Pilgrims who sailed the choppy and salty Atlantic one hundred years ago and pushed through the crowded throng at Ellis Island in threadbare clothing. With a foreign tongue they trekked their way to the Midwest to scratch out a living. I come from a man who abandoned his young family after his 24 year old wife died from childbirth and then left the four children for the orphanage and his second wife with three more and a pregnant belly and a meager dime to her name in the harsh Michigan winter of 1901. I am from orphans who battled through abandonment, the Great War, and the Depression. I am from a Swedish grandmother grown up in a children’s home in Chicago because her mother couldn’t care for her. I am from a Grandfather who spoke Truth in firm gentleness. I am from those who have fought in wars and fought starvation and fought death. I am from a father who loves family, and history, and building, and creating, and classical music. But I am ultimately from Covenant given freely, that wipes away tears and gives me children to fill with stories, and to fill with love, and to fill with Truth.
A massacre of blood running that covered over the permeating black stains. Even if I ignore them, they still spread, and rise. My fingers trace these rough edges, my skin remembering that there were sinister shames and evils here once, but the blood has covered over all of them until they are smooth and faded and gone. This clotting liquid of heritage, a where-we-came-from genealogy.
Where we came from.
This man I am married to looks at me and I know that this is Covenant, too. We signed ink to it years ago but it runs deeper than the legal document filed away for safekeeping. It pulses in the core of my nerves and through me after agonizing and joyous years. A reality that is as real as his hand on my back and his face pressed to mine, but it is bigger…something much bigger than me that I am intertwined with. I chose joyously and fully to say a breathless, “Yes” to this man and yet it came to me and covered over my heart before I could chose it. The simple fact that we met for the first time one Michigan fall when we were young fifteen is nothing of my own doing or his doing. Hearts and minds and souls that lock together in mysterious unity? Was it merely this thing called chance? How can such fathomless love and covenant come from chaos? It is not compatibility or personality, but a God who speaks and moves and writes that binds us. After happiness and carefree youth and disillusioned and awoken niavate. I walked in Covenant and chose Death instead, but yet I am still here because my Lord came down and redeemed what was dead and decayed in this epic war. We are somehow not walking around mindlessly in bodies but alive. And creating. And knowing. Like seeds growing to stalks, to thick root and buds, slowly blooming and waiting for this Spring, this Peace, that is to come. But first we must battle. Not because of rolling a die in chance, but because our story was written down in crimson ink.
When we were first married, I knew I was part of this covenant of belonging and owning, but my pride surged through me like a disease and I drank down poisonous arrogance. Prodigal taking the inheritance and inventing the self. There is this eerie Garden Lie that comes and tries to cover over the brilliance of flame flickering. Surely you do not believe what God has said…. We had a little candle, a glow and glimmer of light and Truth, and it caught fire because we thought we could control it and master it ourselves. It caught quick to the walls of our little house and burned it to the ground to mere dust. Absolute massacre. And God tenderly builds out of ashes and breaths in life is the way that story goes. We must die before strongholds of life and legacy and genealogy can be built.
Who am I, that I should be a part of such a story? Of such a covenant of love? And all I can grasp is tears at the unqualified grace of it all. Then I write it, because it is real. I write it because it has happened, and is happening, to me.
What are tears? And why do we cry at both those things that are good, and those things that are bad? My husband tells me it is because it may be the only way our bodies can express the fragile grasp of reality while we are still on this side of the veil. Both deep sadness, and extreme joy, expressed in tears that fly from ducts and whisper down eyelashes. A sensitivity to, an understanding of, what is Real. To let us know that there is more than ourselves. God’s hand touching on us.
There were years when I thought that nothing could startle us and in those years I didn’t feel the sting of tears. Those nights the summer breeze pushed through the window, warm and heavy, and my eyes would drift while I lay in his arms. But despite our own wills, the bubble does break….and why? Why? I would cry out. When neither of us want it to? When we both cry desperately for depth, and intimacy, and understanding? Because we carry around the antithesis to these things we desire. Evil and Good at war within us and all around us, pouring into our eyes and into our hearts. And I always chose to side with Evil, and God comes in and slays it’s death-grip on my throat that is choking the life out of me. THAT is Covenant. “I will give them a heart of flesh, and take out their heart of stone.” Saved from this sick and hopeless wasteland of souls.
I stood in front of a mirror, warm fingertips on glass creating five small circles of fog against the cool surface, and my eyes looked at the image reflected back at myself. What is this person? I listen to the beauty and the agony of music and both will make me cry, and make my heart beat, and wash over me in familiar intimacy, nostalgia, and pain. Where does such a thing as beauty come from? And my fingers move from glass to scars that are healing and they run over the softness there and I notice for the first time that they are healed, and I am breathing, and I am seeing, and I am standing, and I am alive.