Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Matthew: On the Passion of Jesus Christ

What's the difference between Judas and Peter? goes the popular Bible-study question. "Peter repented' is the refrain. I'd forgotten it was a Matthean setup. And I have to say it gets at the heart of Matthew, in a way.

Like all the evangelists, Matthew's persuading people toward belief. But more than the other ones, Matthew is didactic in its persuasion. You believe in Jesus and in who Jesus is, like Peter, you're in the kingdom, like Peter, despite lapses of faith and serious human weakness.

You don't believe in Jesus and in who Jesus is, you side with the other side, then there's no going back for you, my friend, not if you don't want there to be. The centurions are going to mock Jesus? The joke's on them because everything they say is true. Look for what the wrong ones say, because incomprehension is a didactic theme.

In Matthew, we might learn as much from them as from the disciples. Listen to the crowds, as they chant for Jesus's triumph and soon demand for his crucifixion. If there ever was a direct address to the reader this must certainly be it.

But listen also to the ones who get it right: 'surely this man was the son of God,' or wherever the gospel is preached, this woman will be remembered for her faith'. Follow them, even, to the empty tomb. Don't follow the ones who leave Jesus behind and who must be gathered in again. Follow those who are faithful to Jesus in Matthew, and you follow them into history.

The mission to Jerusalem was a 'failure' not because the message has been changed beyond all recognition, but because the Temple had so corrupted God's people and its system had so embraced hypocrisy that they could not understand it. But the gospel happens anyway. Pay attention! says Matthew. This was all to have been expected.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Serial Fiction: Whisper from the Dust XXII

Chapter Eight

October 6, 440 Y.A.

Grief is both unforgettable and unspeakable; words cannot purge its wounds of weight. And grief is wound, for both are loss, pieces of flesh torn from the body. Since Ryn Batyst died, my flesh has gone from me entirely. I sit here and write and know that my hands cannot be my own. I cannot be here, sitting at my table; I cannot feel myself doing the sitting. These must be someone else’s thighs, legs, arms and head, someone else’s chest and stomach.

It is someone else who accomplishes these things, who rises each morning to stare at himself in a cracked mirror – who broke it? when? – and scrape a blade across his face, wondering what would happen if he cut just a little lower. It must be someone else who does these things, who prepares himself one meal each day and hides, crouching in a corner, when the boys that Gurloes sends come to threaten to sell the booth right out from under him, the card of my damned Guild be damned.

It must be someone else who does those things, because I dwell in another place entirely. I dwell in a place where Ryn is not already dead, where I reenact my last few conversations with him without variance or success. They steer always toward the currents of the same arguments, grind to pieces against the rocks of my own obstinacy or of his. We always fight about the Blood of History. We always part and he always dies. Sometimes, I tie the noose around his neck myself.

It is too much, I know, that I would have such overdone fantasies, the stuff of which the Actor’s Guild would turn down with a sniff. Life may well be a play, but it must surely be a poorly written one. Its themes are far too obvious, its speeches far too subtle, to be conveyed by intentional humanity. For it is the unintentional that carries us, and the inhuman that conveys us home. It was inhumanity that carried me to Ryn or Ryn to me, and it is accident that sends me, like a man being ferried by someone whose oars he does not quite trust, back into the last days of Ryn Batyst again.

It is not that we were very close. It is, rather, that we were going the opposite direction, that I had long crossed paths with the man who would have been my father, if only I had allowed it. But I did not, and now that man is dead. Except that if I had allowed him, if I had said things quite differently, I would not have forsaken the Blood and he would not have listened so much to eager Adlasola and he would not then have moved before his time, and then he would not then have died. But I of course did allow it, so that we were like those Profusionist ships the rumors tell about, the ones who shipped out of their respective ports at the behest of no one anyone could see, toward ends no free human could fathom. And so now he is dead, though he would not be dead had I but allowed it...

It must surely be strange if the Profusion does come back to us from the void, because it is certainly to the void that we go, and the places between the stars must certainly be empty. What, then, will come back, when the universe refurls, when the far stars come near again, when all our dead come home? I’ll tell you about your mother, says Ryn Batyst. I believe she may have been extraordinary.

It was the last thing he said to me. At night, I curl around myself and cannot begin to weep.

At least she comes. In the evenings Adlasola brings me produce purchased from her small earnings, or, I suspect, pilfered by her even smaller hands. She once confessed to me that she simply cannot understand property as a concept. People must surely own themselves, she says, and spend their whole lives paying for it.

Everything else, she believes, is metaphor, and once carved a wooden fish to help me understand. “This fish,” she said, “doesn’t know that it was once a tree. But it will remember when it swims upstream.” I shook my head and laughed, but sometimes now wonder if I, perhaps, am wooden. I certainly feel as though I drown.

What she brings with her is not joy exactly. She is not pleased herself, though she did not know Ryn well enough to truly grieve. The Blood of History has not called her back, she says. She has never shared the memories of the ancient dead. I tell her that she brings to me her blankness, her bright and unassuming neutrality, and I cherish it later as relief. She tells me I remind her of the stevedores who work upon the docks, who carry such heavy bundles upon their backs that they look around surprised when they are gone. She promises me that mine someday will be. She still has not learned to knock.

Tonight she came and brought with her a bracing autumn chill, even after the warmth of afternoon. The little wind of her entrance caught up the finer tendrils of her red hair and shone them in the sunlight. Her plain clothes, brown shirt and shift, tumbled loosely around her as though astonished to find themselves there.

I believe she actually catches beauty by surprise. She’s no less fatalistic than I am, but her destiny is a series of happy and inevitable accidents, and though she wears mourning black, it is only because she has not yet understood Ryn’s death’s full import. When we finally see the whole, she says, I think we understand the parts for what they’ve been. The mistakes of a painting may be perhaps overshadowed or incorporated.

I want to kiss her when she talks like that, but I never know it until later.

She set a bottle of wine upon my table, as cheap as might be purchased, and still perhaps most of what she would have earned on any given day. When she moved, the rough open collar of her shirt showed more of her should and her neck, which then promptly disappeared as she sat back properly. She wore, just then, everything I did not know. Discovery is uncovering, Ryn Batyst had said, and revelation lays bare all that’s ever been. Mystery’s a shawl.

Sometimes I miss her when she’s in the very room. Adlasola, for her part, claims that she cannot describe herself. She lacks words for inner thoughts and feelings, and so must use her pictures. I often thought that I write and speak so much because I lack sufficient imagery – perhaps that is the remedy that my visions bring. Or perhaps we merely complement each other.

She poured out wine for both of us, when I’d set out the glasses. “How are you?” she asked.

I got up and closed the door she had left quite open. “The same,” I replied. “It’s never any better, and I don’t want it to be. But I am glad you came.”

She shook her head. “But you do not, I think, want it to get very much worse.” She started pouring, my glass and hers.

“It always gets worse. Don’t you know we live at dusk?”

She looked up at me. “I know the rituals. I think perhaps they are incorrect. This dusk, at least, must be very long.” I took her glass and mine, setting aside the fruit she’d also brought. I was not hungry, and thought she should at least be comfortable, rather than sitting in my scrapwood chair, she who cannot become accustomed to any furniture at all. In a stride, I was beside my fire, the open fireplace with which I also cook. There must have been a hundred thousand poor flames just like it, just then, all across the miserable city, but in that moment I thought it might be luxury.

She did not, in all her good graces, begin to disagree. Instead, she silently followed me, and sat down very close beside – mostly, I suspect, because there was very little other room.

I stared at the floor, shaking my head. “Gods, I miss him. Right or wrong, he always knew what to do. And I have no idea what to do at all. I’ll be out of the Guild by the end of the month, I’ll lose my stall next week. I don’t know how long I can keep the room. I depended on him, and so I of course didn’t realize everything he actually did.”

Adlasola folded her legs across each other. “You should not I think accuse yourself because Ryn Batyst abandoned you by dying. He chose you to succeed him.” I shook my head, raising my glass to drink, but she waved a hand that I should wait.

“Lead the Blooded,” she said. “He never wanted anything more perhaps than that.”

I sighed, because she suggests this every night. “It’s not my fight, Adlasola. I renounced the Blood of History for a reason. They’re insane – there’s no going back to that.”

She exhaled, making that sound that means either exasperation or disgust. “Why are you afraid, you men? Are you all afraid of becoming what you must be? Ryn understood this, and so he became that person even though it killed him. But that perhaps was the most that they could do. He was not humiliated, he was not shamed or shunned, he was not ground down. Are you so afraid to be like him, Del? I have always hoped that you would not be a coward.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Serial Fiction: Whisper from the Dust XXI

“It was the Public of the Guilds,” he said. “They were almost all Blooded. Ryn worked for twenty years to see to that. I know because I was his man in the Miners Guild, only I never got up far enough to matter. People said I was careless with that cut-load that did me, and it cost me credibility. But when Batyst kept encouraging me to try and I saw one of the other Guild heads at a Blooding, the rest wasn’t too hard to figure out. He never did say, but he didn’t deny it, either.

“Anyway, the idea was to have the Historian mediate some dispute between the Guilds, late at night when they’d be the only ones in the Speaking Hall, right? I know because Batyst asked me to come, only I told him I’d be a real liability with this leg, and not being a Guild head anyway. Maybe I should have gone. I tell you I’ve never seen that man upset. But he was anxious. He was positively rattled.”

“It was too perhaps soon,” Adlasola offered. “I think he was not ready.”

The barkeep nodded. “Yeah, he mentioned something about maybe being infiltrated, and that he had to hurry to get ahead of them. But we know he didn’t. So he didn’t get the High Historian to the Speaking Hall alone. And by the number of armored suits that went clanking by here in the middle of that godsforsaken night, I suppose he probably didn’t come that close. None of the Guild heads did.”

“But they only executed Ryn today,” I said. “What about the others?”

Our compatriot shrugged. “They wanted Ryn Batyst because they knew who he was. They wanted information, probably still do. As for the rest...”

“Oh gods,” I said. “He offered the Public right into the Historians’ hands. Salaan got everything out of this he possibly could have wanted.”

Adlasola’s sharp intake of breath told me that she understood. “You mean he...murdered them? All of them? Even without arresting them?”

The barkeep looked at her. “Executions are the message, miss. They’re the letters the Historians send to the world. But all the meanwhile, they keep a secret journal, where their real power is. Anyone asks, it was a rivalry of the guilds escalated into outright assault. The High Historians Salaan, graciously accepting the responsibility of mediation at such an hour, arrived in time only to arrest the sole survivor and count the bodies where they lay.”

Adlasola looked as though she would be sick. “The Public of the Guild will be weak for years,” I said, because I thought it might distract her. “But you said the Temple probably still wanted information. Why? Ryn couldn’t have withstood the torture. No one does. Why haven’t we been taken, too?”

The barkeep met my eye. “By the time the Historians got to Ryn, it wouldn’t have mattered. The Blood of History wouldn’t let that happen. Information doesn’t get out. Ever. The minds of the ancient dead, he once told me, are deeply conservative machines.”

I shook my head, thinking I knew to what he was referring. “But the loyalty compulsions get overridden all the time. All you need is something to change the chemicals in your mind. If I had a coin for every time Ryn sent me to obfuscate something some drunk said in a place like this on too late a night...”

“No,” said the barkeep, shaking his head. “You don’t understand. What you think, it wasn’t going to happen. The Temple could have tortured him any way they wanted to, and Ryn could have told them everything he knew. But the Temple wouldn’t get names, wouldn’t get places, ever. Wouldn’t even get real words out of him. Ever, zero chance, and it’d be the same for you or I. You understand?”

I did, and was nearly sick myself. “So the Blood scrambled his brain,” I said. “That’s why he was quiet. There wasn’t anything left of him to talk. It was the Blood. It’s already inside us, all the time. So he didn’t say anything, because he wasn’t there to say. Ryn, the real Ryn, was already dead. The Temple was torturing a corpse. They were beating up a body. His mind was already gone.”

Adlasola sat very still. We all sat for a long time, staring into the darkness. There was one customer, an injured miner like the proprietor himself, whom he served while we two sat in silence, and whom he ushered quickly out. When the barkeep came back, Adlasola was more composed and I was halfway through drinking the pitcher of ale. I have no head for spirits, but thought it did not matter. Nothing did. I only dimly noted that the barkeep now held an index, one of those kind on which so many merchants keep their ledgers. I have never needed one.

“So what do we do?” she asked him, or quite possibly no one. “What perhaps would Ryn Batyst have wanted us to do?”

But the proprietor pointed to the ledger, with all its rows and columns. He slid it across the table toward me. I stared at it stupidly, as though I were some animal. “This is really what he came by for,” he said. “He knew I wouldn’t go. But he wanted someone else to know, and he made clear that you might come by and I was to give this to you if you did. I haven’t deciphered it, but I guess it’s the list. Every Blooded whose ever stepped inside the earth, their name, residence, age and occupation. What you were supposed to do with it, I have no idea. But he was damned clear what I was to be about.”

“Keep it,” I said. “I don’t want it.” I pushed it back across the table at him.

“Del,” said Adlasola, putting her hand on the page. “Don’t do this. The world has many frightened men. Don’t become another.”

“I won’t take it,” I said again. “I quit the Blooded. I forsook the Blood of History. The ancient dead are mad. They’re nothing to do with me.”

“It wasn’t a question, kid,” said the barkeep, pushing the index back. I did a quick reckoning and figured I might or might be able to overcome him. But nothing I did was going to make Adlasola happy.

“I’m done,” I said, closing my fist. “There’s nothing you can do that will make me take it back.”

“Del,” said Adlasola, “you I think are being idiotic. This is not the Blood of History. It is a paper only. It endangers this man while it is here. It endangers everyone. This man has connections to his guild, who they know had contacts with Ryn Batyst. They will be coming here.”

“Everything he did,” said the barkeep, “he did to protect the rest of us. If you don’t take it, the Blooded die as an organization here and now. I’ll burn it. It’s too much risk. Take it or the Historians win. Take it or our friend died for nothing!”

I sat still and did not move a millimeter, my eyes fixed on the edge of the table opposite. This time, I didn’t respond at all.

“Despite everything,” said Adlasola. “Despite everything you did and said toward the end, he still believed in you. This perhaps is his dying wish. Did you perhaps not believe in him at all?”

I shook my head. Adlasola took the paper and folded it inside her sleeve. “Then I will believe in you, until you perhaps are ready. I think it will be hard for me not to think somewhat less of you. I believe my own guild head, after all, may very well be dead. You are not the first person in the world to suffer, Del Tanich.”

When the barkeep started to protest her using names, she raised an arm to silence him. “You already know who he is,” she said. “We all know who he is, except for him. But he’s the only one who wishes he did not.”

I let my eyelids fall until they were almost closed. If I cried, I did not know it, but I heard the barkeep walk off to tend his glasses, before the evening crowd arrived.

“But still,” said Adlasola, “there are perhaps things which must be done. Neither of us I think has family. So I need to paint if I am going to eat tomorrow. And you need to go to the docks if you are going to work this week – this is the day your barge arrives, is it not?”

The proprietor must have overheard. “Oh, didn’t you hear that?” he said. “There’ll be no barge today. Maybe not ever. The war’s begun outright. Kasora’s taken Nesechia, too, as well as the Shuni Plateau before it. So they’ve got all Ostara now.

“So it’s the big one, the war between the continents. Historians always said that would be the last one, that the north would go one way and the south would go another, and in the end there’d be nothing left, and that was why we should all be loyal. But I never figured they’d start it up themselves.

Regardless, someone’s commandeered the ships. All our Profusionist ships slipped right out from their docks, whether there was anything or anyone aboard or not. And then they headed south. That’s true, I hear, for everywhere between here and the docks at Sepira by the sea. The Faith can’t do a thing about it. So no, there’ll be no barge this week, none of any kind, that’s certain.”

Adlasola dragged me toward the door. “We’ll find a way,” she said.

I could almost hear the barkeep shake his head. “Not if what they say is true,” he said. “Not if that was the work of them there spheres, those Orchids, as they call em. Not if this was all their doing, and they’re taking sides in our own war. Maybe it’s all bound up together. That much power against us, I don’t even want to think about.”

Adlasola shrugged, and steered me wavering through the door, and out into what had suddenly become a very steady rain. And I saw that we had spent the entire afternoon inside; dusk had dropped its great cloak, grayer even than my own, all across the city.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Christology: To An Abused Woman, Concerning Christ's Suffering

To the Mss. M. V. H*,

Life is suffering, but the Christian life is joy. Perhaps in this world you have confused the two, as one is often prone to do. Perhaps you think that the world is joyful, but that the Christian life is suffering, sobriety, and privation. Perhaps you feel that the believer, to be like Christ, must be apart from the world, and thus be afflicted by it.

The world, of course, wants you to think so, so that it will continue to have power over you, rather than you over it. But this is manifestly not so, as the Apostle Paul quite clearly says. And he suffered greatly, even as he found great joy. Indeed, what carried Paul through suffering was Paul’s own joy in Christ.

Please understand, it is not the opposite that happened. Paul’s suffering did not carry him through joy. Paul’s suffering did nothing for him, in the end. Endurances produces character, and character produces hope, but what I ask you is, hope for what? Paul certainly did not hope for more suffering, but rather for more of that joy of the kingdom of God of which we are all a part.

Is this not, then, the end of all our sufferings? If our highest purpose is joy, is it not on joy that we should fix our eye? If we are to be Christians, isn’t it so that our gaze should be transfixed by the One who gives us joy, and not by our own afflictions, whether they make us great or tear us down? I remind you that that which delights us has dangerous power over us. I fear you must ask yourself very carefully where the source of your delight must lie – is it in Christ? Or is it in your own suffering?

Notice that I say it is the Christian life that is joy, and not the life of Christ. The distinction is important, though seldom enough noted. The life of Christ is by its nature as different from the life of a Christian as the Christian life is distinct from the life of the world. And that is so because Christ must reign over all; take heart, for he has overcome the world! He must certainly be over the life of any Christian, and He must be beyond it.

You are too proud, I think, if you continue on your present course. Would you deprive Christ of his victory, by re-entering the lists? Would you summon the powers of darkness, and rise up against the Adversary himself? Would you take the Lord’s place, by climbing up upon His own cross? Would you defy the will of God, which Jesus Christ himself did not forsake? I know that you would not.

Life is suffering. From this no soul, however faithful, can be exempt. It is true of Christian and atheist, Buddhist and Jew. To be humble before our God is to confess that our life will be no different in its essence. You can do nothing to escape this groaning world. No one can. The question the Christian must ask is what he or she can add to it. What boon can we ourselves grant the world? How can one add the Christian life of joy unto the base life of suffering in the world?

A fierce atheist can be mistreated by her husband and be made harder by it. But it will be a true Christian indeed who can overcome the evil of her husband by so manifesting her love of Christ that he must certainly repent. You speak of enduring trouble, but can you overcome it? You say your husband would be lost without you, but when he is with you, what has he found? Does he – not will he, not could he possibly, for now is the time to speak very frankly of everyone involved – does he find the joy of the love of Christ in you, who he so mistreats?

If you would cast yourself as Him – and I pray that you would not – does your husband not then take the part of the pugilizing Romans, who know not what they do? If you think not of yourself and the goodness of your own pain – as, again, I know that you do not, lest you be presumptuous – but if you think not of yourself, but of your husband, I ask you, what boon do you grant him by allowing him to treat you so? Not all who are shown the truth repent, as Christ himself proclaims. The same Pharisees with whom He has so many conversations, and to whom He discloses so much truth, are those same Pharisees upon whom He pronounces woe.

Perhaps that is the best, sometimes, that even He can hope to do. And would we think that we would succeed, where He himself would not? If you stay with your husband, acting as he does, you accept his proposition that you make him a better person. Satan get behind you! Far be it from you to consider such a work! Far be it from anyone to attempt what only the Lord Himself can do!

But the Christian life is joy. Are your children happy, with a terror in their home and a mother who takes upon herself all the burdens of the world? What do they learn of Christ if their father only causes suffering, and their mother only silently endures it? How different is their home, then, from all the other homes of all the suffering mothers of the world? From the world one can certainly learn much about the law of God.

But from the world not one soul can learn God’s grace, the goodness that overcomes the world. And there is no goodness at the end of the road you are upon.
Men who abuse do so because of wounds and distortions within themselves. They abuse more than once. They abuse more than one woman, because the women in their lives are interchangeable. Your husband’s abuse has little to do with you. He learns nothing from it because marriage is not for instruction, but for delight. So I hope you understand what I mean when I say that what your husband does is sin and that the wages of sin is death, and that the road you are on ends with you and possibly your children dead and your husband a criminal at large or quite possibly arrested. What joy can you give your children in this way?

You see, the world would have you understand this backwards. It would have you think that suffering is a result of choice, and that joy comes to us by and large through chance, whether by love or wealth or pleasurable association. I am here to tell you that for the Christian it is suffering that is chance and joy that is our willful choice, because we choose whether or not to delight in our Lord and Savior. Yes, I say to you that suffering is chance, not because it is escapable, but because it is unnecessary.

God does not need pain. Our salvation, heaven forbid, does not require sin, either yours or your husband’s. God does not need any of our works, whether good or ill. What part, then, can human malice have in the ultimate will of God? The pain your husband inflicts on you and on your children – do not say to me that they are not in pain! – that pain is in no wise necessary. It is not necessary, and it is not helpful.

Please understand, you will not escape suffering no matter what you do. That is another lie the world would tell you. If you want pain, you will find it outside the confines of your home. If you want tribulation, you will find it in the world aplenty. If you want endurance, the world will burden you with concerns more than sufficient for the day. But I pray that it will be for the name of Jesus Christ. You say your husband harms your body and your heart, but does he do so because you are a Christian? Really and truly? We know that he does not.

Please understand, there is a large difference between enduring pain because you are human and receiving it for professing the name of Christ. Only the second is prescribed by Scripture. The first is warranted even by the world, because even survival warrants suffering. But to suffer something is only to allow it continue. And that yoke, as you and I both know, is neither easy nor light.

Life is suffering, but the Christian life is joy. The Christian is the one who is most truly lives, because true life is joy. But tell me, do you think more often of Christ, or of your husband? Have you added delight unto the suffering of your house? Of your community? I confess that I have missed you in the church. When you come, you are not here. You seem always so much distracted – distracted and afraid, as of course you surely must be! But again I tell you it is not necessary.

I think of all the great things you could do, you and your children, for the sake of the love of God in this community! I would have you commit your whole heart, the entirety of your being – forsaking mother and father for His name – rather than continuing a life divided. Surely you must feel it. Certainly you must know that you are split. You are sundered because you are secret. You cannot tell, or you have not been able to tell, very many people about your husband’s hard behavior. And you will not be able to if you continue, because the road you are on does not permit it.

So, yes, keep your eye on the cross by any means at your disposal. But keep your eye on the tomb as well, and most of all on He who has already filled up both. Such things cannot be done by you. But they were done for you. Unless he is an immediate threat to the safety of you and your children, I cannot tell you, in a letter, whether or not you must leave your husband; I would first have to meet with the both of you, and ask that you come as soon as it is possible. But I can tell you to look for Easter. Look for the resurrection, without which all even He has done is vain. Because that is what the cross was for.

Look to Christ, yes, but follow also the eyes of Christ, who looked not only to the cross, but also to the Father. “If it is your will, take this cup from me,” was not said for the sake of Jesus Christ, who did not seek to save or lose himself. Rather, it was said for your sake, because it was you He hoped to find. Neither He nor I would have you lost to the violence of your husband. You have a home quite beyond your own. You have a home in the kingdom of your Father, who promises good things for you.

What Jesus came to tell you is that that kingdom is already here. Heaven is coming now. You already have a Husband who will never harm you nor forsake you, who does not need you, but who loves you and only wants your love in turn. With one hand you’ve found Life that gives life, and with the other survival that merely suffers its own continuation. Which would you choose? And I tell you it is a choice, not because one can choose whether or not to suffer but because one certainly can choose how. Will you choose to suffer for yourself, thinking that you suffer for your family but helping them not at all? Would you continue to seek to find or lose yourself in pain? Or would you think of finding Jesus Christ in the body of His members?

Because you are not alone in this. You are not responsible only to yourself and to your husband. You are also bound to Him and to His church, neither of whom can be increased by the measure of your suffering. Indeed, we suffer with you. We weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. We are one body, and we are of one mind . When you are struck, we are struck. When you are cursed, we are cursed. How horrible for your husband, to do this to the Lord! But for his sake, and for yours, I pray also that we would rejoice with your joy, and that come soon. It will not come while your husband hurts you, while your husband hurts us all.

Life is suffering, but the Christian life is joy. Without Christ there is no joy, but in Him that joy must come certainly. Bear your crosses patiently, but mind that crosses can only come from the will of the Father, which is love. Conversely, I tell you quite clearly that one can only bear the cross that one does not will upon oneself; the cross one chooses is only an arrangement. How is love increased, when your husband strikes you? How is love increased when he insults you? How is love increased in fear, if love drives out fear? Wherever two or more are gathered, there is He, but your husband does not strike you or your children for His name.

What, then, can you see when you look in your husband’s eyes, or he into yours? In the eyes of one another, we see Christ and love abounds, but how can you see Christ in the fists and curses that our Lord condemned? How can he see Christ in your eyes, when he cannot see you at all? In allowing your husband to continue as your adversary, do you not condemn him to his face? No, no, I pray that this cannot continue. Love bears all things, endures all things, but love must also be genuine, or it is not good. It must be without dissimulation. Love must be without its opposite, which is contempt. When your husband strikes you, he thinks less of you, as you must think, I know, a little less of him. I pray you both be freed.

In love there is freedom, because love is what releases us. Love cannot take our cross away, but the Spirit of love can take us up out of our own tombs. And you are not yet free; you are still bound. You do what you do not want to do, or you would not have written me. You may or may not want to die, but you certainly want to live, because to be His bridegroom is to want the water of His life, which never ends. You are on a road that ends. Suffering ends, just as the life of this world must one day end.

But the joy of Christ is that road which does not end, but only goes on forever into the kingdom of God’s own love. So this, and all of this, I pray that you will do: choose to live rather than to suffer; choose to enjoy rather than survive; choose to love rather than endure; choose to tell, rather than conceal; choose to join, rather than to separate; and choose to walk in freedom, rather than to stand in defiance and in fear.

Come, come quickly, and I know the Lord will show us by His Spirit that which we must do.

You servant,
Benjamin Shank

*both the name and the woman are ficticious