It’s week 9 with Jayber and his fellow Port William dwellers, as we study along with Michele Morin for the lively discussion about Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, that she is leading at her site, Living Our Days. Have you been part of an online book study? I am reminded of my Literature Classes, and feel thrust back in time as I prepare what feels like my “Book Report” here on this blog.
But did I ever let those books, so long ago, touch my heart in the way that God is moving me as I read these days?
As life moved along, and history affected the day-to-day of each person, Jayber found himself having to face the grief and pain of those around him more than he might have wished. When the Grandson of one of his cherished friends, the son of the woman he secretly loved, was killed in the Vietnam war, Jayber, the grave digger, found himself no longer just an observer:
“I dug the grave. I waited while the pallbearers—Jimmy’s friends, unbelievably young—bore the flag-covered coffin to the grave and the mourners gathered. When they had assembled, instead of standing well out of the way as I usually did, I took off my hat and stepped in under the edge of the tent.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 293). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
As hard as Jayber tried to distance himself from the deep grief that he thought he had no right to feel, he indeed was swallowed by “grief and bewilderment.”
I find myself swallowed in those same pains as I look at the hurting in this world, and when I am honest, at my own wretched state some days.
Jayber tried to sort out his bewilderment, but expressed words that I have heard spoken today in these times filled with a chaos so similar:
“In any moment when I was quiet, tenderness and madness would come upon me and contend to no purpose, to the making of no sense. I could hardly bear to read the newspaper, which filled me with disloyalty and unbelief.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 294). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
Even as Jayber tried to surrender his questions to God, he found himself asking the age-old question: Where was God in the suffering–in himself, and especially in the poor and despised of this world? Jayber came to a conclusion that I find myself drifting to on many stormy and pain-filled days:
“We are too tightly tangled together to be able to separate ourselves from one another either by good or by evil. We all are involved in all and any good, and in all and any evil. For any sin, we all suffer. That is why our suffering is endless. It is why God grieves and Christ’s wounds still are bleeding.”
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 295-296). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
But was there something that he missed? I longed for the next pages to answer that question for Jayber. But his only relief was to find the mercy of time moving forward.
A bursting in my soul sought to find expression as I examined my own grief, pain, and ugliness.
Was there more for me?
Broken To Deliverance
Longing to be restored I
Feeling cut-off and rejected I
Ugliness is what I feel
As I look back
Years that led me here
Generations passed down these
I carry the markers for
But don’t we all carry
Aren’t we all children
Trailing behind our days
Burdens we bear together
Agonies we passed on
And out of the darkness a voice speaks
Listen to Me you who seek after other
Unable to carry the burdens
You yourselves go off into captivity
I am the Lord your God Your only Life
I have made
And I will carry
Even to your hoary head
There is no healing apart from You
There is no freedom from chains except
Without the blood that was poured
Without the blood on the doorpost
The destroyer continues
His work of shame and despair
But under your blood I am released
The curse cannot be passed down
There is beauty here for me
There is Life to be tasted by all
I come into Your Deliverance
“God will pass through to strike Egypt down. When he sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, God will pass over the doorway; he won’t let the destroyer enter your house to strike you down with ruin.”
Exodus 12:23 MSG
“Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden.The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity. ‘Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’”Isaiah 46:1-4
There is a rescue deeper than our grief,
deeper than our pain,
deeper than any ugliness
Jesus suffered for our release
and for our deliverance.
When the world
and our own thoughts
try to say the suffering
will never end,
I pray that we will hear
His voice calling
“I will sustain you
I will rescue you.”