A poem for Holy Week

Last year my church commissioned me to write a poem for our Good Friday service based on the Seventh Station of the Cross. I'm publishing it here because I'm glad to share it with you.

Feel free to use with attribution.

Jesus cares for his mother - John 19:25b - 27

Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

 

Near the Cross, Christ’s Mother Speaks

By Micha Boyett

 

Oh God, I sang those words like the angel who once blazed before me,

left me light-soaked, my virgin-clear voice lifting the poems

of the ancients into song. I was only a girl then, and still

you gave me this child. I received him, I believed.

 

His birth was worship. The praise I sang in naïve faith:

Magnify the Lord, rejoice in God. I claimed mercy

for generations, for this generation. I sang because you chose me,

because my child’s very living was hinged in wonder. 

 

God, despite your quiet retreat, despite the early years of fear,

when my exhaustion and earth-bound vision cast a veil between us.

Though he pulled from me toward you, toward danger, toward this world.

Still, I told him his story, his past and future as the Always-One.

 

I sang him into the song the prophets wrote:

How Yahweh shows strength with his mighty arm.

I whispered in the dark, his boy-body resting on mats,

You are the Mighty Arm, child.

 

And here, oh God, is where it ends: That boy I dressed,

the one whose meat I cut in bits, who—for your sake, Lord—

I told the Story. There he is—your Mighty Arm—

on that cross, writhing, calling his mother, Woman.

 

I’ll go with John to his home, my old shoulders

wrapped in wool, I’ll shiver by the fire,

grief my companion, let the women spoon me broth.

But I will not sing the song you gave me.

 

I will not sing of deliverance, of mercy, or strength,

of hungry filled, of goodness in the hands of weak ones.

No, I will die an old woman without a son,

in the home of a stranger who loved my child.

 

And what will become of our visions and dreams, of the prophets’

words I pressed into that boy’s hands? Your angel promised power,

vowed to shatter thrones in Yahweh’s name. Yet my son—

our son, Lord—was power cloaked in peace. He shattered us all.

 

What can I do but receive this? Let John

lift the bread and wine to my lips, bitter in the mouth

of this old woman who waits to kiss—one last time—

the face of her broken, miraculous son.

 

Or perhaps you will grant me hope enough

for a solemn hymn, the final prayer of a desperate mother:

 

Look upon your Mighty Arm, Lord. Save us all.

 

© Micha Boyett 2017. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Prayer and Panic Attacks: Prayer for the rest of us

Sometimes you find yourself walking out of the challenges of your life, and you no longer recognize the landscape that changed while you were in the fog.

So it’s true to say that these years have brought me to a richer spiritual space. But it doesn’t look like I would have expected. My faith is deeper but also ragged. I’m a bit battered and I’m still figuring out what it means to live here, on the other side of the crisis. What does faith look like now, when the wild wind has calmed, and I’m not sure I remember how to walk without being forced to lean in?

 

eutah-mizushima-26887-unsplash.jpg

 

A couple of months I wrote a piece about panic attacks for my "Prayer for the rest of us" series over at Off The Page. Find it here to read the rest

 

Wednesday: Ashes and Death

Photo by  Danka & Peter  on  Unsplash

I wrote this post five (FIVE!) years ago when I was pregnant with Brooksie, now a little boy who is making some extravagant plans for his fifth birthday next month. It's one of those rare things when I can come back to an old post and can still say, Yes, that's what I wanted to say. It's Ash Wednesday. I hope this day and your Lenten season is full of grace and goodness.  

I love Ash Wednesday because it reminds me that I will die.

I am a product of a culture obsessed with youth and beauty. We honor the young and ignore the elderly. We worship comfort at the expense of wisdom. We refuse to consider that each of us are constantly moving closer to our own deaths. And we convince ourselves that we have control over the reality of living and dying…until the cancer, the terror, the tragedy.

I don’t know what it is about pregnancy, perhaps those millions of years (until this past century), when a woman’s body knew that giving birth meant the possibility of death. Maybe my body and my brain still haven’t connected over the existence of modern medicine and the rarity of death in childbirth for the average American woman. And so I’m feeling in these final days of pregnancy like my womb has switched on an awareness-radar, saying: Love everything! It could all end soon! The world is suddenly brighter and more fragrant. August is charming even as he whines while I’m on the phone. I’m seized by a need to stroll instead of hurry. What a strange thing to have hormones telling you you’re risking your life, possibly dying, and doing something so significant it could change the world.

So tonight, I will sit alone in an Ash Wednesday service, preparing myself to stand before a priest of the gospel and hear the words that ring the bell signaling the Lenten season: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. I will feel near to death. Not like it is a monster coming at me, but like it is a sleeping terror I am allowed to approach.

The older I get the more often I know people who have lost those they love. I know it's possible. The tragedy could come to me. I could be the tragedy. There’s something to sitting alone with that thought on this first day of Lent, for a mother and a wife who is never completely alone, to approach the bowl of ashes and feel them pressed into the skin that covers my brain. I am made of this. I will be this again.

The ashes tell me that I am broken. I am human, not a god, not a marvel, not a woman of accomplishment. They tell me that whatever I do with my life, this body, in all its beauty, will be the same lump of ash as the vilest criminal in prison. The ashes make me look at myself: thirty-one years old. Have I lived long enough to have become the woman I want to be? Have I loved completely?

I want to ooze hospitality in my life. I want to see the people around me as Jesus. I want to care. I want to carry peanut butter and jellies in my diaper bag to offer to those begging just blocks from my home. I want people who meet me to sense peace in my presence. I want my son to joyfully remember his childhood as full of color and kindness and rich love. I want to patiently listen to my husband instead of storing up bitterness until I lose my temper.

I’m thankful that the ashes are about more than my own death. They’re about the death of the God whose brokenness and ultimate restoration heals my failure, who brings purpose to a life that could easily be written off as ordinary.

Last year, as I sat through our Ash Wednesday service, I watched a couple carry their ten-month-old baby with them to the pastor, who marked not only their heads but their little girl’s as well. I watched them carry her back to their seats, a bit shocked at the sight of ashes on a baby’s face.  I couldn’t help but consider their intentions. Were they reminding themselves of their child’s own brokenness as well? I thought: August will die. At some point he will die.

As I write this, he is asleep in his room, snuggled up with around 12 different stuffed animals. My other son, the one whose feet press into my side long enough for me to measure a length that simply should not be (those things are not going to fit on the birth certificate), is waiting for our God to give him a little shove out of me. He’ll breathe oxygen for the first time and scream at the injustice of life outside of my warmth. He will be fresh and beautiful and it won’t take long before he will be scarred.

It’s Ash Wednesday. So let these ashes remind us that what we need is not the avoidance of age, the fear of our own endings, but the glory of healing, of purpose, of life lived fully.

When God Meets Us in the Wilderness

Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

My friend Amber Haines released her book this past summer. That Amber Haines can write gorgeous sentences. And her book's theme of how our desires point to the kingdom we serve has challenged me to go back to another friend's book. Jen Pollock Michel's Teach Us To Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith is about the theology of desire.

Today I'm guest posting as part of Amber's Wild in the Hollow series on her blog, and thinking about Jen's words and what my own desires for comfort and ease reveal about me.

Here's a little peek:

There are parts of me that only want comfort, ease. I want a life of surface-level pleasure. I want my kids to be healthy and happy and get good grades and score winning soccer goals.

What is false desire and what is true desire? There are big longings in me: I want to win the hardest worker awards and be a perfect mom and be the person everybody loves, and never feel overwhelmed, or afraid.

But those longings for ease and a life where I’m not afraid? They are the shallow side of my story. They are desires that only scratch the surface of who God longs for me to be. My most real desires are the result of God’s grace in my life.

To get to my truest desires I have to be courageous enough to dive into the darkness, through the pain, and find myself on the other side in the bright sun, in the place where my false desires are exposed for what they are: fear, selfishness, comfort at the cost of others.

Rich, miraculous love exists on the other side of pain.

And to get there, I must first walk boldly into the wilderness, where God met Moses in a burning bush, where the people of God wandered for forty years, where Jesus fasted and was tempted. The wilderness is the space between the promises and the promised land. The wilderness is the pain between our shallow desires and our deeper, more real desires. We move from loving our own comfort to loving the things God loves.

 

Find the rest over at Amber’s Wild in the Hollows blog! And be sure to check out both Amber Haines’s Wild in the Hollow and Jen Pollock Michel's Teach Us To Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith . They are both worth your time and meditation.