Pillars, Rocks and Scales (For Peter and Paul, Apostles and Martyrs)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
I.
Readily he left his nets,
Left the boat to walk upon
The water just as Jesus did,
Only then to sink within
The waves, then be pulled out by hand,
Sternly; ye of little faith…
Always that tension raging:
The will to walk out on the sea,
Never leave, never forsake,
(Cut the high priest’s servant’s ear);
And then the will to run and hide,
To warm by fires and deny.
And yet this truth: that when old, though
Headstrong, he would be taken
Where he did not want to go,
Dressed in clothes he did not choose,
Hanging upside down upon
His master’s accursed tree.
May I, though just as faithless,
Bear to stand out in the cold;
May I, though sinking, stand here firm.
Though also petrified, may I
Think it joy to bear that tree,
And in this joy become as rock.
II.
Damascus-bound and zealous,
The fiery one who stood and watched
And held the coats while Stephen sang;
Orders in his hand to kill,
The self-sure orders of the proud,
The righteous one in his own eyes.
As for zeal, persecutions;
As for righteousness, perfect;
That inner voice always assures the self.
And then, upon Damascus Road,
A blinding light, a voice calling.
Saul, Saul, I am Jesus
Whom you persecute. How long
Will you kick against the goads?
Why do you kick them, Saul?
A silent scream, an inner kneel;
A needy, blind walk towards
The house on Straight Street to gain eyes;
And then – a hesitating step,
A faith-step in, a loss of face,
To stand inside the house of foes,
To stand and wait on mercy.
After that: the fall; the dropping of
The scales with the drooping of knees,
And in Ananias’ inner ear,
The voice he heard that told him of
An enemy now become a friend
And how much he would learn and how
Much he would suffer for the
Name which had now called him inside.
III.
Beneath these pillars I fall down,
Scarcely bending my proud knees:
The rock which spoke of living stones
And corner-stones for stumbling,
And the worst of sinners who
Puts my best attempts to shame.
And joy evades on peaceful days
While Peter, upside-down in death,
And praising and imprisoned Paul
Sing their songs of hope while I
Drop below the waves and cry at
Foolishness and cross-stirred joy.
Yet in this truth I am held firm:
That rocks are made from trembling knees,
And even the most hardened eyes
(Ossified and petrified)
Can be shown again the light
As scales fall off and rocks rise up.

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