it seems my only cleverness
is finding fresh names
for the same mistakes
new words to express regret
"I always leave Mitchell classes with questions," she said, today in my bedroom, across the half opened suitcases and piles of boxes. "He doesn't answer them."
Moving back in. Lots of packages every day, manila envelopes containing new books. Syllabus day. Projections about the coming semester. My door hinge is broken and swings open to the hall, friends come by. I am rearranging my shelves and playing new music. The morning rain is gone and the pale winter day is bright with cold sunshine. I'm keeping my lakeside shades up this semester so I can watch the wind carve waves into the water. They were down all last semester, my semester in the dark. I drove inward and all my questions were about myself.
"Questions are wonderful.” I said. “Let's make a list."
Because questions are sometimes more comforting than answers. Questions are possibilities. I ask them, so brave and liberated, sending them out across the unknown, and as they hang in the air, unanswered, they demand nothing of me. There is no commitment in the question, only in the answer.
Ask and ye shall receive.
Answers are the hard part. My dark semester I asked the things I was most afraid to ask. I was Habakkuk on the wall, relentlessly waiting with a scroll, ready to write, to run, hungry for truth. I was the blind man begging and believing healing would come. And the word fell from the sky. Just as I knew it would. But once you have truth, you must act. I was the blind man healed and the world was much uglier than I'd imagined. My reflection was ugliest. When the word falls from the sky, from the unsympathetic stars, in the cold night, when God replies, when He touches your eyes, there is no way around acting. I have answers now. Staring at the answers has been among the most difficult things I've ever done. Running with them demands parts of my soul that I don't know how to use.
I lied to you
when I asked for the truth
knew what I wanted
before I even spoke
and when you didn't give it
I decided to sing in my own ears
Why was the darkness more comforting than the light? And uncertainty more appealing than truth? Funny how excited I was about the unknown when I thought all my wishes must be clues. I got bold and prayed things that cannot be unprayed.
I am haunted by those old prayers. Prayers I prayed when I was a better woman than I am today. Prayers about sufficiency in Christ and absolute duty to God, about never taking life in my own hands, and about walking on water. There was a time when I identified with Abraham and Job and Peter, but today I am haunted by Sarah, who tried to breed her own answer to God's promise, by Saul, who tried to save what was good and didn't just destroy everything as God told him to, by Jonah who fled the will of God and nearly killed a whole ship full of people. I am haunted by this Vanauken quote that I found about misreading God's signs and misinterpreting His winds.
And my hands are tightly twined around anything I can find to hold onto. I started out on the sea of faith, how did I end up here? Knotted by my fear into my own hammock. Trying to sleep in the boat in a storm?
so I'm fleeing over frozen fields
where I gathered bitter unripe fruit
stumbling into darkened paths
assuming I can guess steps
it won't be long before I break
I've broken. My questions are answered.
And yet, these answers come gently. It must be Mercy speaking. Truth is Mercy. It is Mercy that keeps me from my desires, Mercy that stops up my mouth, Mercy that lifts up my head, Mercy that shows me how much I need to be closer, drawn closer, to Love.
And it is Mercy that has me here, again, putting books on my shelves and asking new questions. Giving me a little space and a little time before the answers come—and letting me ask about external things (politics and philosophy, aesthetics and poetry), while the new ground broken within me begins to heal. The soil is turning. New things are being planted.
“I can handle questions.”