Past midnight, pen in hand and mind awake. I write line one but draw a blank at two, Unsure of what to do. Imagination bade me start to make This brief display of words, but I must do Some work to see it through.
Not ev’ry line is given. Directed, but not driven.
But so it is with you. You work in us to will and work yet do Not call us to inaction. We must take Our crosses, follow you, And trust when we can’t see because you do. And you will ne’er forget, fail, nor forsake.
Verbal camouflage: the art of saying enough to blend in but not enough to stand out from any conversation where you don’t know the subject matter well.
I like to think I’m pretty well versed in this type of speech. For example, I know just enough about sports to blend into an average conversation. With my limited arsenal of roughly one to five facts or anecdotes per popular sport, I can sort of follow a conversation, insert a comment when relevant, and make it through the discussion without my ignorance showing too clearly. As a bonus, if I can maintain my cover long enough, I can sometimes pick up an additional bit of info I can use in a later conversation. If all goes well, nobody knows how little I actually understand.
Verbal camouflage works for many subjects: sports, coffee, fashion, politics, music, internet controversies, etc. The practice can work in at least two ways. The first way is the way of humility. Stay silent, listen well, and learn. The goal here isn’t to appear more knowledgeable or to hide our true selves (most of my friends recognize how little I know about most things). Rather, the goal is to learn without distracting from ongoing conversations.
The second way is the way of pride. Here, we try to share what we know in order to look better in the eyes of those around us. We attempt to bluff our way to acceptance, hiding our weakness behind a mask of knowledge. Maybe we’re afraid our ignorance would deny us friends or would keep us from the circles we want to inhabit. Maybe we’re just insecure with our limits. For whatever reason, however, we choose talking over listening, assuming rather than learning. Sadly, we can sometimes get away with it. Sadder still, we sometimes try this approach with God.
I’m learning that we can’t fake things with him, though. I may know the right words to say to convince a friend I’m doing alright. I might be able to fake my way through a conversation about spirituality. But I can’t do such things with God. He knows my heart better than I do. He sees my weakness, my ignorance, my pride, my insecurity. He sees where I’m falling short in my love and my obedience. He sees it all. And while I may be able to hide from others, I can’t hide from him. If I sing about surrender or pray about dependence, he knows whether or not I really mean it.
Thankfully, God gives mercy and grace in great abundance. He reveals my ignorance, my weakness, and my need of him, and he meets me with instruction, strength, and help. He disciplines me for my good, convicting me of sinful ways and leading me in righteous ways. He provides, protects, and keeps his promises. I am weak. He is strong.
I’m trying to be more open before him, more sensitive to his Spirit, more humble in my walk. I’m beginning to learn, slowly, where before I would assume knowledge and speak hastily. I’m beginning to grow, slowly, as I learn to trust him more. I’m beginning to operate with a better understanding of my limits, looking to him for help. I’m not good at any of these things, but, by his grace, I think I’m getting better. And I pray he is pleased with me.
As Hopkins saw, your grandeur does not pale, Does not diminish though we sin and stain Ourselves and earth. We work in pride and pain. And through it all, your purposes prevail. How can it be that we, so foul and frail, Do not exhaust your grace? For grass and grain And goodness still persist. You give us rain And wrap us in provision. Though we fail To follow, you forgive and give us love, Your character conveyed in ev’ry sign And ev’ry word, a freshness undefiled. Decay, despair, and death touch not the dove Who brings in darkness brightness so divine And choicest comforts for the fearful child.
This poem was inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur,” drawing on some of his themes and imagery and asking some further questions.
Comparison, come to kill again, quick
To cripple, curse, cry foul, foment, and feed
Confusion till desire seems more like need.
God’s grace grows grey, his manna makes me sick
Even as it sustains me. Still I stick
Stock in distinctions, hear his call but heed
Too my brother’s call. He blossoms. I bleed.
Truth bids me trust. I tremble and cry, “Trick!”
Dethrone, O God, the god of my making,
Myself as ultimate, false comfort, chief
Of my affections choking out true love,
Unlovely leech of joy. Set to breaking
My false assumptions and restore belief
In your good will and all my lot thereof.
To know your grace suffices e’en for me
Requires that I must be
Convinced of my inadequacy.
In weakness, I am free to see
I fear to pay the price, but I fear too
The cost of trading true
Hope for futility. Help me to
Accept the things I cannot do
And trust in you.
The topics of peace and division have been on my mind lately. In part, this is due to some of my research along those lines this semester (see last week’s post for more on that). But the themes are present outside of the classroom as well. Online interactions show us that division is prevalent in our world, and the bitterness with which people divide makes peace seen almost a myth. And sadly, the church isn’t immune from such struggles to live in unity.
I have watched this wound heal for a week or so.
Day to day, I do not detect
movement of skin,
change of shape,
decrease of pain.
Then one day, I do.
The gap is less wide, the depth less deep.
dead skin darkens,
new skin appears.
It is not finished. It is still sore.
I wanted the process to be faster.
Nevertheless, the process is working.
Healing is occurring.
He is mending,
Perhaps the same is true of my heart.