28 March 2015

Tamar: Shame

2. Samuel 13:1-22

Don't look at me.
I am nothing now.
Why this?
Why me?
Don't look at me.

Don't tell me
it was all my fault -
I ask myself already
what I could have done,
why I didn't see.
Don't look at me.

Don't tell me
it was not my fault -
it changes nothing,
does not take the shame.
I could confess,
though it's his sin.
My shame would stay.
You could show pity,
say you forgive,
though it's his sin.
My shame would stay.
Call me innocent -
it will not change
the truth of my shame.
Don't look at me.

I feel dirty.
Nothing can wash me.
I feel hurt.
Nothing can heal me.
I feel lost.
No one can find me.
I don't want them to,
don't want them to see
my shame.

Lord -
are you like those
who avoid me now?
Are you like those
who pretend I am fine,
or those who condemn,
denying relief?

are you the listening ear
that lets me scream,
the one who covers
my shame with clothes,
the God of vengeance,
the God who forgives,
who sees my shame
but honours me?


[September 2013]

Tamar, David's daughter, was raped by her half-brother Amnon. Not to be confused with Judah's daughter-in-law. There's a second (older) poem about David's daughter, here.

This was influenced by my "homework" for the paper I'm writing about shame / honour cultures. Western theologies often look at the Gospel in terms of guilt, when what bothers people in most other cultures is not guilt but shame. And at some point I had to think of Thamar (though I've written a poem for her already...), and victims of abuse. You can feel terrible about what happened to you, even though it was not your fault. Even if you know it was not your fault, you can still blame yourself, feel broken, and what helps people in such a situation (I think) is not so much someone telling you Jesus died to take your guilt away, but knowing that He died also to take your shame away. Because I think one can feel ashamed even if one is not guilty.

The part with the clothes is based on Genesis 3, where God gave Adam and Eve (who were ashamed after having taken the fruit) clothes to cover them. Shame has a lot to do with the feeling of exposure. I was thinking also of all those verses in the New Testament (and also some in the OT) about putting on salvation and righteousness and putting on Jesus "like clothes".

Tamar: Dirty Laundry

2. Samuel 13:1-22

I want to SCREAM,
to tear my clothes -
but that's what HE did,
tore them clean off me,
and then -

Don't remind me.
Don't take me back there,
don't let him touch me,
don't you touch me either -
I'm afraid,
so afraid
of every look
   every touch
   every man ogling my way,
   every brother
   even Father -
Don't want to trust again.
I can't,

He said
he was sick with love.
Then he used me
like dirty laundry
and threw me away -
is that what love is?
Over powering.
Not heeding cries of NO.
Is that what love is?
Then let me die
                              die -

I'm already dead,
wish I were dead,
he killed me,
killed my love
          my trust
and I'm dirty,
so dirty -
just throw me away,

like he did -
threw me away,
like a worthless piece of rubbish.
And that's how I feel
because that
is what he's made of me.

Are you here?
Were you there
when it happened?
Why didn't you stop him
with some lightning from heaven
or send down an angel
to whisk me away?
WHY must I live
with this shame that's killing
                                                killing me?

Do you care?
Or am I dirty
in your eyes too?

He's a man.
He'll get away with it
Father won't say a word,
of course.
While I bury myself in shame
and hope
that YOU
who comfort the suffering



Not to be confused with the daughter-in-law of Judah, whose poem is right here.
David's daughter Tamar was raped by her own half-brother, Amnon, who for a long time moped about how he was so in love with her and couldn't bear it, then pretended to be sick, tricking her, and raped her. Afterwards he lost interest and sent her away - which to her was almost the worse shame. (I feel Amnon really had no clue what love is...) And one of the many many terrible things in this story is that Amnon just gets away with it; David doesn't move a finger. I have a feeling this episode contributed to Absalom's later uprising against David - Tamar was Absalom's sister. 

What I tried to focus on here was Tamar's feelings of shame - as well as the inequality which enabled Amnon to do what he wanted, without even getting in trouble, while her life was probably ruined for ever ("violated women" carry huge stigma even now in some cultures, even though what happend wasn't their fault).

There's another (newer) poem for Tamar over here if you want to compare... see if I've improved or de-proved over the past few years... ;-)

Picture by N. Regnier

26 March 2015

Widow of Nain: Job was not a Woman

Luke 7:11-17

Lord, you have given;
Lord, you have taken.
Like Job, I should
bless your name
But the words
stick to my throat
and I can't speak them.

For Job
was not a woman,
not a widow
defenceless and alone,
with no one to depend upon.
He lost all he owned -
but not the pillars holding him,
for he was a man
and could stand on his own.

Lord, you have given
such wonderful years,
such a kind, loving husband,
such a beautiful child.
But why have you taken?
Praise should cross these lips -
they bring forth tears instead,
for I don't know how
to trust in you
when all my life
has crumbled away.

But what is this?
He holds my tears,
He takes my fears
and frightens them away.

You care, o Lord -
o Lord, you care.
I'm not a speck
of passing dust
to you,
my fate's not meaningless -
you do not look away.
No -
you bring hope,
you bring life,
unexpected -
and teach me
faith and trust again.

For the Lord hears
the cries of the afflicted
and has compassion
deeper than death.


[28. February 2012]

Might not be so obvious in the poem, since I'm trying to show her feelings rather than what happened, but Jesus came and raised the widow's son back to life. :)

In those days, widows didn't have it easy. I tried to show that a bit... as well as the inner battle between knowing one should praise God, and the feeling of not being able to because of all the bad that's happened. I think there are times when our grief or our problems can make it hard to accept what's happened, and make it hard to trust in God. And I think in such moments, God knows and understands. Jesus came and changed things for this widow. Sometimes, He helps in other ways as well, by letting a kind stranger speak a kind word, or by sending people to give help and support...

I think when people are really upset, sometimes it's important just to let them vent. Like Job; he vented! His friends tried to argument with him, but in the end it was they who got told off, and not Job who was venting! The Psalms are full of venting! Compassion is more helpful than trying to talk people into accepting what happened or trusting God again. Compassion will convince them much faster to trust in God again. And compassion is what Jesus did, right here.

Don't throw doctrine on a grieving person - throw love on them instead.

17 March 2015


"May the Holy Spirit, by whose overshadowing Mary became the God-bearer, give you grace to carry the good news of Christ." (Common Worship)

"My little children, for whom I labour in birth again until Christ is formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19)

I want to bear You into this world,
although it may turn my life upside-down -
changing some of my tastes,
dropping some habits,
making me feel sick some of the time,
making life harder,
but more beautiful.
Let me be pregnant
with Your Good News.

I want to bear You into this world,
although it may mean rejection and shame -
foolishness to the world,
making me want to hide it sometimes,
but the more You grow,
the less I can hide.
Let me be pregnant
with Your Good News.

I want to bear You into this world,
although it will mean giving birth in pain -
enduring contractions,
suffering for You,
until I think I can bear it no more -
but all is worthwhile
when in my arms
I hold my victory at last.
Let me be pregnant
with Your Good News.


[16. March 2015]

Is this very weird??

I got the idea for this Christmas Eve 2013, because the blessing I quoted at the start of this poem was part of the liturgy that night (and I loved it). Took me all this time to actually write it, though. Since I've never been pregnant (yet) I hope what I wrote makes sense (esp to those with more experience haha).

In case you didn't catch all the references:
1: "changing tastes" = getting cravings
"dropping habits" = e.g. not drinking alcohol during pregnancy
(You should check this list about the physical changes caused by pregnancy and giving birth. It's a bit intimidating...)
--> Knowing Jesus changes how we live; we change for His sake. Also, when we want to share the Gospel, we actually have to live according to it, and live in such a way that we can pass it on (e.g. by adapting to the culture we are sent to).

2: "rejection and shame" / "unacceptable" = Mary being pregnant out of wedlock
"foolishness to the world" - 1 Cor 1:18 (the Cross is foolishness to the world)
--> The Gospel isn't necessarily what society likes to hear - and it's true sometimes we might be tempted to hide it away (wear big jumpers so one can't see the baby bump lol), but if Jesus is truly working in you, sooner or later He'll become visible, whether you like it or not! :D

3: Here's where the Galatians verse fits in: "My little children, for whom I labour in birth again until Christ is formed in you."
--> Bringing Jesus into the world can mean suffering and pain, not only through persecution but also simply in the kind of pain Paul describes in Gal 4:19, waiting for the people we know and care for to turn to Jesus and truly understand what it means to belong to Him. But it's all worthwhile!
The "victory" at the end sort of implies the "heavenly reward", although I think it can also be felt already on this earth when we see our work come to fruition. :)

Picture by the Master of Erfurt: "The Virgin Weaving." 

16 March 2015

In the Courtyard

Luke 22:54-62

"And the Lord turned and looked at Peter." (Lk 22:61)

Don't look at me, Lord -
for it fills me with shame.
Your eyes pierce right through me
to the depths of my soul,
to the dark murky depths of my sin.
And yet
I need you to look at me,
to see all of me
and call me back
to the love I forsook.

Don't cry for me, Lord -
for I don't deserve your pain.
Your love shatters all my confidence,
breaks down all my pride,
brings me down to the ground at your feet.
And yet
I need you to cry for me,
to love me still
when I am unable
to forgive myself.

Don't go, o Lord -
for if you go on, you will die.
And you are too good, too pure to die,
you don't deserve to bear my shame,
my guilt, my sin - my death.
And yet
I need you to die for me,
to bear my load
and set me free,
so I can rise again.


[15. March 2015]

(Not part of the women of the Bible challenge, but a new personal favourite so I posted it anyway...)

Inspired by listening to a prayer podcast about the denial of Peter (Session 3 on this page) (they are excellent, I highly recommend doing the "Women of the Passion" Lent retreat!)

I imagined myself in the courtyard (where Peter was warming his hands and ended up denying Jesus, while Jesus was being questioned inside), and that moment where Jesus turned and looked at Peter. I imagined what I would feel and say and what just sprang into my mind then was pretty much what is in the last stanza of this poem ("Don't go - but please do").

Maybe try and imagine yourself at that moment: Jesus not even a day away from dying, turning and looking at you, just the way you are at this moment. How do you feel? How is He looking at you? What goes through your mind? What do you want to say to Him?

The denial of Peter is one of those scenes in the Bible that I return to again and again. Here's two other poems about it: Denial (from the p.o.v. of the servant girl who challenged Peter) and The Rock.

Picture by Carl Bloch