Trenches

Don’t look back to

Empty evenings

Scenes that drained life to

The dregs.

Death is there,

Pronounced with

Lightning destruction.

Ezekiel too decried

The folly of heinous lovers

Devoting sacred gifts to

Buyers indiscriminately.

The evenings of empires

Look back to

History and decay from

Golden ages.

.

But, fighting wars

Requires digging trenches;

Unearthing grime to

Make room for riches.

Ezekiel named it,

And I will too,

Releasing death to

Forgiving suns,

Looking back,

Because God was there.

–N.R. 10/31/18

Trenches on the front of WW1

This poem is about the journey of forgiveness. It was not easy to write, because forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to me whatsoever. But forgiveness is crucial for relationships to last, for peace to exist between people, and for unity to be restored. God designed forgiveness as the process by which we are reconciled, and He forgives us freely because of the death of His son Jesus on the cross.

The first part of this piece describes the temptation to ignore pain from the past, to not look back and to instead bury hurtful experiences in a veil of anger and bitterness. It’s easier to do this and find for ourselves “heinous lovers,” cheap substitutes that distract us from reconciling with people–or with God–that hide the damage we’ve felt or inflicted (much like Israel had difficulty turning to God in biblical times when they were possessed by idolatry). It’s also the temptation of nations (like ours) to ignore the injustices and wrongs of the past because they think it unnecessary when on the surface they exist in a “golden age,” if you will.

The second part, however, is about the fact that forgetting and burying are not an option in the process of forgiveness. We have to uproot the past, dig our trenches and confront the pain and bitterness within ourselves to be able to forgive others. And why? Because God was there when we were betrayed, put through the mud, oppressed, neglected, etc. He was there, and He knew how much it hurt. The same God who has numbered the hairs on your head has counted every scar on your heart too. He knew it, and He decided to bear the weight of that forgiveness for you. He was punished for us on the cross, and took every ounce of our guilt, shame, and condemnation. Because we are forgiven freely for our own atrocities this way, we are called to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32).

My prayer is that this piece reminds us that the only way forward in reconciliation is to seek forgiveness. Today, that requires that white and black Americans dig their trenches together, finding out what is really there in our history and what needs to be forgiven so that we can truly come together. Empowered by God’s Spirit, we may see forgiveness change the landscape of our entire nation.

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