28 November 2015

Crippled Woman: Worth Much

Luke 13:10-17

Who looks twice
at a crippled woman,
except to give her crooked looks,
crooked like her crooked back?
Crooked, not friendly -
for I am not normal,
I am a mistake,
a burden, not a blessing,
to all and to myself -
not worth much.

I am "just a woman".
I am "that cripple".
I am a failure
in this world bent on success.
Not worth much.

But now I see
your love, o Lord,
which values even me -
"Abraham's daughter"
is what you call me -
not an outcast anymore.
You look at me so differently,
you lift me up,
you make me new.

I don't need to be perfect
to be perfect for you;
you love me
just as I am,
the one the world had thrown away.
And now I know: to you
I am worth much.


[August 2012]

I wrote this back when a new Trisomy 21 test was introduced in Switzerland (a test enabling pregnant mothers to check whether their baby has Down's Syndrome). In the meantime I learnt in an Ethics course that in America nowadays, most children with Down's Syndrome are aborted, and if parents opt to keep theirs, they are criticised for "burdening society".

How do we view disabled people? Are they "incomplete people"? Are they (as to the Pharisees in Lk 13) worth less than a donkey or an ox that falls into a ditch? Jesus questions why one is allowed to rescue a wounded animal on the Sabbath, but not a sick or disabled person. He calls the crippled woman a "daughter of Abraham", honours her as a complete person, as a person for whom the blessing of Abraham counts just as much as for the healthy people.

What I learnt in that Ethics class (from reading Wolfgang Huber) is that nowadays people tend to have an "olympian" idea of the "perfect human being" as someone athletic and healthy. The Bible, on the other hand, shows us the suffering Christ. According to the Bible, humanity reaches its perfection not in a healthy young athlete, but in a weak and dying wreck on a cross!

We need to change our way of looking at people. We need to value the broken, not only give it value once it's become whole. Jesus heals the crippled woman - but to him she is a "daughter of Abraham", a complete human being, before she is able to stand straight again. Even if she were to remain crippled, she would be equally valuable to him. And she should be equally valuable to us, because biblically, health and physical perfection are not what make out a complete human being.

11 November 2015

Zillah: Image

Genesis 4:17-22

Mother of culture -
mother of violence.
My womb brings forth beauty -
my womb brings forth death.

I look at you, my children,
and I see your Father,
the image of your Creator,
in the beauty you create.
I see Him in your intelligence,
your creativity,
your imagination,
the goodness of your hearts -
image of God.

And yet
I look at you, my children,
and I see your father
by whom I conceived you,
in the violence you perpetuate.
I see him in your conflicts,
your enmities,
your anger,
the hatred in your hearts -
image of man.

What strange creatures we are,
uniting in ourselves
goodness and creativity
with violence and cruelty -
children of God
fallen into sin.

I look at you, my children,
full of joy and pride at the good you create.
I look at you, my children,
full of pain at the violence you perpetuate.
Can a mother forsake her child?
Can I cling to disappointment,
instead of praising your achievements?
Should I hold on to my pain
or forgive you again and again?

I look at you and pray
that the image of God may grow in you
and blind out the darkness, the anger and pain;
I pray that your goodness
will overcome your hate -
but until then, as your mother,
I will love you
and wait.


[7.-10. November 2015]

This one kind of speaks for both Adah and Zillah, mothers of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain from whom came animal-keeping (Jabal), musical instruments (Jubal) and metalwork (Tubal-Cain). Adah and Zillah were the wives of Lamech, a man who prided himself in his violence (see Adah's poem). Their children - in a sense the originators of culture - were descendants of Cain, the first murderer. That is where I see the connection between culture (actually a good thing) and violence. The creativity of Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain mirrors the creativity of God - but they are also part of a violent family and a violent people that will be eradicated in the flood.

I considered this from Zillah's perspective as mother: she sees the good in her children, and yet she also sees the bad things that upset her. And yes, that small bit "Can a mother forsake her child?" is something God said (Isaiah 49:15) and it was my purpose to make the connection to God there. A mother loves her children and looks on their achievements with joy, even when what she sees is marred by their failings and shortcomings. I also believe that a good mother will want her children to change for the better, especially when she sees that they are harming themselves or each other with the way they live.

In that sense, a mother's love can help us understand God's grace: God loves us as we are (we are his children), he wants to accept and forgive us. But he also wants the best for us - and for all of us (siblings included). If we are harming our siblings (i.e. other people) he won't just shrug it away and accept it. I think God is very much like the mother who waits... like the father waiting for the prodigal son. He loves us and that includes that he wants us to change and stop harming each other and ourselves. But he does not force us to change.

Picture is of Tubal-Cain the metalworker, son of Zillah. His sister Naamah also has her own poem, here.

08 November 2015

The Choice of Arwen

Do not tell me not to do this -
for I know it is death if I do,
and I know it is death if I don't.
What choice is mine,
but death or death?
What could you save me from?

What choice is mine
but death or death?
Death if I choose you:
a mortal life
that passes like a breeze
and ends,
something fleeting
that must be grasped
before it's out of reach

What choice is mine,
but death or death?
Death to live without you,
death to watch you die,
slow, eternal death
to live forever apart from you,
throwing away the joy,
though fleeting,
I could have shared with you.

What choice is mine?
I'd rather share
a mortal life with you,
a fleeting blink in the depths of time,
than die forever
outside your embrace.


[12. / 31. August 2014]

Inspired by watching The Lord of the Rings for the nth time - in particular the scene where Elrond warns Arwen about the consequences she will have to suffer if she decides to stay with Aragorn. Arwen never really had much of a choice, did she?

Picture by John William Waterhouse

07 November 2015

Jeroboam's Wife: Walk Just A Little Slower

1 Kings 14:1-18

Just a little longer,
just a little longer.
Walk just a little slower;
give him some more time.
Keep breathing - try
just a little longer,give him some more time.

This pain so deep inside,
as if it's I who's dying,
like giving birth to him all over again -
if only I could.
If only I could
give him life again,
start all over,
wake up with him alive in my arms.
But here I am,
a messenger of death,
and with each step
my child slips away.

Is not this the harshest blow:
striking a child
for his father's wrongs?
But is it God
who causes this pain -
or is it the consequence
we bring on ourselves?

This pain so deep inside,
for the suffering of generations
that come from my womb,
my children -
if only I could
walk just a little slower,
start all over,
die instead.

Just a little longer -
o Lord, have mercy!
Walk just a little slower -
I know your will is just.
Keep breathing - try -
Is there no other way?
Give him some more time.

One step over this threshold
and my son is dead.
Walk just a little slower.
Give him some more time.


[June 2013]

Jeroboam was King of Israel at the time when Israel and Judah split, around 926-907 B.C.
He did not please God (originally God chose him to start something new, but Jeroboam ended up introducing idols and such), which is why Jeroboam's family was punished - starting with the death of his son Abijah.
Mrs Jeroboam appears in that context: Jeroboam sent her to the prophet Ahijah to ask whether Abijah would get well, and Ahijah told her not only would Abijah die as soon as she returned home (hence the "walk just a little slower" - I imagined her really hesitating to go home because it would mean her son's death) but also the generations following would die violently.

Originally I wrote only the first two and last two stanzas, then decided I needed / wanted to add some "theological interpretation" with the middle stanza, thinking a bit about sin and punishment and consequences of sin. When I think of God punishing sin, I don't see it as Him being a strict / angry / "mean" kind of God striking without feeling. Because God is love. He loved us - ALL of us - so much that He gave Jesus, that He Himself suffered for us to restore our relationship with Him. When God punishes, I see it more as the consequence of sin - punishment being something we bring upon ourselves, and not something God wants to or likes to inflict.

The question of future generations suffering the consequences of their forefathers' mistakes comes up in some of my newer poetry too, so if you want to track my theological development you could compare this one with Jehoshebah's poem. ^^

Picture by Charles Horne.

06 November 2015

Jochebed: Mother

Exodus 2:1-10

Here by the riverside,
as I watch him float away,
as I lose my greatest treasure
and he drifts out of my reach -
here by the riverside
I know what motherhood is.

It means to lose
so he can gain,
means putting his good
over mine,
although it hurts.
It means to bear pain
so he can be safe,
covering him with my wings,
protecting him with my life,
sending him downstream
although it rends my soul.
It means sacrificing
my happiness for his
- for his happiness is mine.

These tears I cry
are so he can have joy.
This ache in my heart
is so he can have life.

Lord, I lay my treasure
into your loving hands -
and ask you one thing only,
that you be a Mother,
to him.


[4. September 2012 - during class ;-)]

I had a looooong time on this lady. I first had the idea about a year ago: on reading Exodus 2, I thought I'd write something about how letting go is worth it with God, that sometimes we have to let go of things to receive them back. Jochebed let go of Moses - if she hadn't, he would not have survived. She let him go, and she got him back and was able to keep him for a while without danger.

The whole thing changed though, when I wrote it. It ended up being about being a mother. And I'm quite content with it this way. This is dedicated to my beloved Mamma who has had to let go of her "grown-up" children - she's in one continent and we're in the other. Not easy! So this is dedicated to her. <3

God is not only Father but also Mother - the image appears a few times in the Bible. While writing this I became aware of how God is very much like this definition of motherhood: giving and sacrificing a so we can have life. He gave Himself for us in Jesus, bore pain for our sakes. And we weren't really the sweetest little children - while we were sinners, Jesus died for us! God loves us like a mother.

The "wings" image refers to how a mother hen covers her chicks with her wings when there is a fire, and lets herself burn to death protecting her chicks. I don't know if that really happens but that's how my father explained the verse where Jesus said that God has been wanting to gather Israel under His wings like a hen gathers her chicks. I put that image in on purpose, also to make the link to God as Mother.

Picture by Pedro Américo

01 November 2015


"I have suffered all the punishment of an attachment without enjoying any of the advantages."

Maybe if I loved you less
it would not hurt me so.
If I could blame you,
be angry with you,
forget about you,
maybe it would be easier.
But I cannot stop
loving you
although you're hurting me.

I have been bleeding
for months
but I never let it show.
I have been bottling up my tears,
locking my pain safely away;
I have been hurting in a hidden place,
so many nights, so many days.

I have had to hear others,
their stories of love,
their stories of pain,
never able to share my own.
I have had to hold others,
dry their tears,
comfort them -
with never a comfort for me.
I have been bleeding
and no one saw my wounds -
I never let it show.

Maybe if I loved you less
it would not hurt me so.
But I cannot stop
loving you
although you're hurting me.


[January 2013]

This is about Elinor from Sense and Sensibility - in particular about how Edward left her hanging for a very long time and, unable to speak about her feelings with others, she had to wait and endure other people's hints and speculations, all the time unsure what he really wanted. The worst was finding out that Edward was already secretly engaged to someone else - and not being able to talk about it to anyone.

Picture by Chris Hammond