Do you remember the honeymoon moon? It was supposed to be full and big and orange, but it hid behind the clouds and I tried to make my heart do the same. The moon never came out, but my heart did and I let myself forget it’s not just moons that wane.
Without the honeymoon it was too dark for swimming but neither of us wanted to say it so we went anyway. Then the warmth of the water mingled with softness of your skin and we both knew I didn’t stand a chance. Sometimes you just have to jump to find out how deep the water goes. Verse seven of Psalm forty-two rings out somewhere in my memory of it all.
I’ll grant: the plunge took my breath away. It’s about all I’ve got left, these days. There was a magic in your mystery and I prayed you wouldn’t care that I didn’t know Amos from Titus from Esther.
It probably would have been easier just to read them.
Do you ever think of Abraham? I have been lately, about that moment he stood above Isaac, knife raised high. Can you imagine? The joy of his life, miracle of miracles, offered up to death.
The whole ordeal used to disturb me. It seemed evidence of a capricious God, and I added it to the litany of self-assurances that eventually nudged me away to that dark place I told you about, allowed me to become the man who I still can’t be sure I’ve outrun. I find myself constantly looking over my shoulder.
Lately, though, I’ve been seeing things differently.
I think, now, it might be the most incredible moment in that whole blessed book, outside of Calvary. The commandments were yet to be handed down from Sinai on high, but Abraham gets an early glimpse at the first. I think in some ways, it is the only one, anyhow. Everything traces back to it in the end. It offers a piercing portrayal of our humanity: even gifts we manage to screw up. And it’s a painful thing, removing those idols from our hearts. The heart has such a damned strong grip sometimes.
Yet at the same time, it might be the closest a man has ever come to God. Not physically, of course, but experientially. It might be God at his most vulnerable, if it is possible for him to be so. Give me your only son, your beloved, as I will give mine. There must have been a nearly overwhelming intimacy in that moment. Abraham is invited over to the edge of the chasm, offered a glimpse of the Almighty’s future pain. This thing you could not do, He says, is mine to do instead. That must have been a staggering moment for a mere man.
A mere man. I like that.
I told myself maybe it was retribution for the sins of my past or maybe my luck just ran out. Or maybe it wasn’t anything at all, and I know that’s the maybe that hurts worst of all.
It’s an odd thing, really; this process of becoming unacquainted. The excitement of the beginning, so electric it almost crackled, folds in on itself at the end; days once blurry with bliss now stretch and stick in inconvenient places. It’s trying to forget all the associations and finally realizing you can’t just erase the ocean.
I don’t know if these words hurt or help my heart to loosen its grip. Probably neither nor. If nothing else, I’m glad of the opportunity to reflect on Abraham. There are a lifetime of lessons to glean from his story.
And people our age could probably do for more frequent reading of the Bible, anyway. Lord knows I sure could.
I read Titus last week.
I still don’t know Amos from Esther.