Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Steps on the edge

Above all, two things were sacred to the reverend: prayer and his whittling. He saw beauty in the patience it took to craft something beautiful. To him, prayer was much the same. He meditated deeply on the words he read in the Bible, using them as the knife to carve the wood of his soul into something worthy of the Lord.

I keep thinking of myself that way. Detached from it all. I try to focus on peace, but it is hard.

It is so hard.

Lately, people who were coming after sermons or to confession kept slipping within the same circles of sin. It was as if confessing was enough for them because there they were, always coming back to commit the same exact sins. They wanted forgiveness, not change.

As a shepherd, I thought beneath the wool of my flock. I pondered on their flesh. Their weak, sinful flesh. They ran through the motions and they put on a good show, but they decided to remain in the same cycle.

And so did I.

In my leniency. In my forgiveness. In my empathy. But lately I felt as if I was the one putting the pathetic in empathetic. Such weak faith we’ve cultivated in these times.

I found myself easily falling into waves of anger and flirting with an ocean of wrath. All because of them. It was taking everything in me to remain in control. Now I had a meeting with Christopher. For a welder, he was Ok. Nothing too bad. But it was always the booze and how he didn’t want to hurt his wife but still managed to do so.

A knock on the door breaks me from my meditation and I call out as a reflex. “Come in.”

The door clicks open and there is Christopher, holding his trucker hat like a security blanket. Even at ten feet I could smell the beer on his breath. Although his knuckles were white from clutching his cap, I saw the heavy bruising. It had been Miller Time in the Smith household all right.

“Hello, Father Elliot," he chanced, hesitating to enter my quarters. "Can I come in?”

I nod and wave him in. Although he used to take a while to tell me what he had done, this time he fell on his knees crying. It had to be one hell of a beating he had given Charlene.

“Why do I keep hurting her, father?” he asks between pathetic snot riddled sobs. “I don’t want to do it, but I end up doing it.”

I am as tired as I am repulsed. This is the type of faith we enjoy nowadays. And I aid the system by consoling sinners and heathen in the hopes of conversion. I feel the stir of wrath in my gut and I kneel in front of him. I take him in my arms and the maggot rains his regret on me for however fleeting it is.

“My son, sometimes we are faced with hard decisions and we walk the edge, hoping we don’t fall. But for however much these actions may hurt us and the ones we care for, we must make this decision and act righteously. Do you understand?”

I feel the head nodding against my shoulder, relief already displacing regret.

“You do know I love you, don’t you, son?”

“Yes, father.”

“Good. That helps me to make the right decision always.”

He continues to sob and I know he’s reaching out for salvation even if he has no idea what it looks like. For my part, I also want to reach out for salvation. Except I know exactly what it looks like.

I breathe deep as my eyes look back at me. A deep calm takes over and I feel control at the knowledge that salvation awaits within me, and the reflection of my truest self. A whittling knife may have a purpose, but its edge is not limited. Righteousness often lies in going beyond one's supposed purpose and finding a mission. 

The whittling knife stares at me and I smile in return.

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