Friday, April 27, 2007

Flesh of our Flesh

this was my prayer, my moment with the Almighty this morning...

Dear God
When were you last slapped,
hard in the face,
out of the blue,
so you were stunned,
had pins and needles,
lost your sense of being for a second
and then watched your skin swell, darken, run
...and stretch to its limits?

When did you last last hold a baby up to
your own face, God,
smell the warm body,
touch the innocent skin,
know the life pass between you, with no words?

Do you have feelings too, God?
Do things touch you?
Are you spirit or are you substance,
for real or only ether-real,
or you there or everywhere?
If we reached out and touched you
would our hands pass right through
...your elusive, divine self?

What about any distinguishing characteristics?
What colour are you God?
How's your eyesight,
what's your body like,
would we spot you in a crowd,
would we stare at you for some disability?

How many senses have you got, God,
five, six, eighteen, ninety-four?
And your sense of touch,
is your handshake firm as a vice
or slippery as an eel?
What do you smell of God?
Anything in particular,
the universe, is it,
planets, oceans, space, skies?

If it's true that your Spirit is always willing your flesh ever weak?
And if the Word was made flesh,
are you flesh of our flesh,
bone of our bone?

Is that you there, meek and mild,
meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes?
Is that you, Baby J,
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing,
is that you, screaming as you arrive
like the rest of us,
screaming at the shock of the new,
the shock of the cold and old and broken?
Is that you,
slipping clumsily out from between
a Virgin's legs,
covered in blood and gunge and straw,
when moments before,
you had been covered in glory?
Tied to the mother of God by stringy flesh,
sucking for your very own life on a woman's breast
...what a come-down.

And is someone slapping your bum,
a world-first,
God gets a thrashing,
God gets to feel flesh on flesh
and it makes him cry?

Still, at least you had an audience,
cows, was it, or maybe a goat or two?
Did they look at you in awe and wonder,
were the cattle lowing a bit,
or were they a smelly nuisance?
But 'little Lord Jesus no crying he makes'.
Well, that doesn't sound right.
The thing about flesh is that it makes you cry;
for better or worse, you've got to cry.
'Who is he in yonder stall
at whose feet the shepherds fall?'
Did they fall?
Did they recognise you up close,
did they know that it was you, God,
starkers, in the flesh,
or were they just intrigued by
the heavenly host
and that funny star?

And did the flesh inconvenience
and annoy and anger you,
like it does the rest of us,
your fleshy creatures?
Did your nose run green,
your skin flake or bruise red,
Did your breath catch with asthma
in that smelly barn,
your chest tighten in fear?
were you irritated by flies and gnats
(ones you had made earlier),
...or did they show some respect?

And later on, what did you do about
your fleshly lusts?
And, just out of interest, where, on earth,
did you go for your private moments
- are there miraculously fertile plants
there today,
trees with roots for miles
and branches into the heavens
forever bearing fruit
...or are those places
where the divine squatted in squalor with his
lowly creatures,
and wiped his bum with leaves,
just like any other place?

When you were tired,
when it was all going wrong,
when your friends misunderstood,
lost interest,
wandered off,
did you think,
'What did I get into this body-business for?'
swapping spirit for flesh,
swapping omnipresence for being somwhere particular?
Did you feel trapped in that body,
or didn't you know what it had been like
before you became body?
When were you in-carnate
...did you recall what it was like
being out-carnate?
Flesh doesn't fly, usually,
flesh can't be in more than one place at a time,
flesh is limited, awkward.
Did you ever notice it,
did you wonder at the restrictions of
the body corporeal,
or were you just one of us,
God Inc.?

Did the flesh exhilarate you,
excite you,
did you run and laugh and fall,
did you sweat and wrestle and argue
and were you grateful to live
on earth
a human
in flesh
to be one of us?

"He was little, weak and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew,
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness."

And how's your body now,
do you wear a halo, or a crown,
is it of gold, or is it of thorns,
are there marks on your palms,
have you got blood on the side of your shirt still?

Jesus of the body, of the flesh,
Jesus of the teeth and hair and toenails,
welcome to the body, God
and thank you for taking it,
for putting flesh on the bones of
our skeletal lives,
thank you, Jesus, for becoming body among us,
that veiled in flesh Godhead we see.

Flesh is all we have
but, as you know now,
flesh is not all we are.

Crafted by this great man, my friend Martin Wroe from his book, 'When You Haven't Got a Prayer: A journalist talks to God' (Lion, 1997)


bluemountainmama said...

this reminds me of a quote i saw on my friend's blog:'We think we're humans having spiritual experiences, but we're really spirits, having human experiences,'

curious minds want to know, huh?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

boy they do....i have not come across that quote before but i like it, i like it very much

Wes & Judy said...

...beautiful, from all directions...thanx!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

a pleasure wes and judy, mr wroe is a gift - his words always seem to express what i cannot - thanks

Suzanna said...

It's a wonder that we can be an education for God. We have educated him when he came to be with us and to "learn" obedience as the Hebrew writer said. I'm wondering what I could teach Him today as I creatively live this day.
This poem speaks of the partnership between flesh and spirit.

Ellen said...

Amazing that these were all the same questions I had about God years ago.... only so eloquently put together by Mr. Wroe.

I also like the quote from BBM. It reminds me of the "am I a butterfly or human" dream. Since we shall never truly know, I opt for the "do good deeds anyway" theory.

Caroline said...

Great poem / prayer - thanks for sharing it here.

Anna said...

This is wonderful Paul. And I love that quote that blumountainmama shared.

Your interview questions are up on my blog! Thanks for volunteering! Can't wait to read your answers! :)

Have a good weekend!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

suzanna - i wonder the same. my conclusion is that we teach him nothing and yet give him everything, maybe....hope today went well

ellen (I am replying this time) - i like works because without them faith doesn't work - keep going beautiful human

ps, mr wroe is frustratingly eloquent!

caroline, thank you, it's a pleasure to share your journey

anna, it's late but have just had a glance - looking forward to trying to answer your very good questions. the quote from BMM is wonderful isn't it?

ps, can't get the U2 song 'walk on' out of my head after looking at your lower pic!!! Walk on sister....

paris parfait said...

Thanks for posting this powerful poem. And I apologise for not visiting lately, as three weeks of guests, then a short trip have preoccupied me. Now I can create my own schedule again and will write and read more.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

paris i know what you mean - the book of poems/prayers is only small but it nourishes me time and time again

Anna said...

Hope you are having a good weekend! Again, this is a really great post and I hope that you have fun with it! Did you take the pic? :)

Anna said...

OK, "it" in my last post being answering my questions.

Awareness said...

Martin's prayer pulls my ethereal picture of God right down to settle before my eyes.....He stands before me as another human being. And as much as our flesh can sometimes make us feel shackled to one place, I thank God for the flesh which houses my spirit, my heart, my soul.....and which allows me to step forward with open arms to hug another human being.

I have read the prayer to myself, and out loud.......would love to stand up on a hill in a field and really have a is truly a powerfully felt piece.

You're right Paul. As are you, Martin is a gift.

thank you for sharing.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

i haven't been well so haven't got round to answering your very good questions - i will remedy that very soon
Yes i did - i recently got some of my old 35mm images scanned and put onto disk - it was taken in California on the way back from Yosemite to San Fransisco

there is something about flesh holding the spirit that helps - touch is so important
and you are right he is a gift