I wrote the lament below for an open seminary forum held one month after the 9/11/2001 attack. Today, 20 years later, the lament rings painfully true.
We haven’t had more unexpected attacks on skyscrapers or the Pentagon. Instead, we’ve had a home-grown physical attack on Congress; home-grown political attacks masquerading as MAGA; routine home-grown attacks on people of color, immigrants, and women; unprecedented fires, floods, drought and tornadoes; and daily fallout from protracted global warfare and upheaval.
Back to 2001. I was one of several faculty members asked to open the forum. I’m speaking in our seminary chapel. A large wooden crucifix is on the wall behind me. Hence my reference below to Christ’s death being in the room.
It’s difficult to focus.
Voices and images
clamor for my attention,
my analysis of what is beyond all reason.
I force myself to stay close to the bone,
close to home, close to my Christian roots.
Death is in the room.
Not a new presence,
not even unexpected.
It, too, clamors for my attention,
masquerading in terrible new configurations.
I don’t want to die,
especially if I must suffer in my death.
From the throne of his cross,
the king of grief cries out….
‘Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by?’
There is no redemption
apart from suffering and death.
I want to be redeemed.
I do not want to die, or to suffer.
I’m not a very likely candidate for redemption.
Death is relentlessly in this room.
Unfinished family business is in this room.
Violent behaviors and attitudes
passed down from father to daughter;
Habits of not telling the truth,
passed down from mother to daughter;
Withholding of love and affection,
Relentless inspection and fault-finding,
Love wanting expression but finding no voice,
Truth wanting expression but finding no listening ear.
Unfinished family business is in the room with death–
A gnawing ache more than my body can bear.
I like to think I’m ready to die.
But I am not.
Nor will I ever be.
Not today, not tomorrow,
Not in a thousand tomorrows.
If I say I am ready to die,
I deceive myself,
and the truth is not in me.
There’s always more work to be done–
Unfinished family business
Unfinished seminary business
Unfinished church and community business
Unfinished personal business
Christ died to relieve me
of the awful, paralyzing expectation
that one of these days
I will finally be ready to die.
Christ finished his work so that
I could leave mine unfinished
without even a moment’s notice.
The Heidelberg Catechism says it all–
“What is your only comfort in life and death?
“My only comfort, in life and in death, is that I belong–body and soul, in life and in death–not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ….”
Praying for ways to maintain lifegiving connections with those we love and those we too often love to hate.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 September 2021
Quote from the Heidelberg Catechism found at etsy.com