We had a thunder in the night that came Like evil laughter heralding the rain. I woke and found my city half-asleep. And I put on old shoes to walk the street. We have too many cars here on my block, Even in the blinding rain at three o’clock. I know I’m not the first one to complain-- Don’t we all hate our cities just the same?
I turned to take a back-alley and found, God, sitting in a puddle on the ground. It’d been awhile since we’d kept in touch, But I could see He hadn’t changed that much. “Where have you been?” I asked Him kinda slow, “I’m pretty sure the whole world wants to know If God has sent us coasting down a hill, And took off work and left the steering wheel.”
I hoped to see a fire light His face, To kneel there conquered by a flaming grace. God didn’t look up from the New York Times, “Go on,” He said, “what else is on your mind?” The sullen anger seething in my head Exploded into wild wrath instead. “I have a list, get ready!” I half yelled. “When I’m done, see if you can do as well!”
I want to know why you hate innocents, And why you feed the world at their expense. I want to know why God has set apart, And holds a grudge against the pure in heart. If God is sovereign, He cannot be just, (And I’m prepared to prove it if I must). If God is just, He has no final say-- Judge of the Earth, you need a Judgment Day.
We had a knifing fight right here yesterday-- A good man going on his quiet way. I want to hear you say you did not see, It will make it much easier for me. We have a lot of babies clean, unborn, Unstained, and quite unwanted and so torn With scissors in a sanitary space, Tell me you have not seen this taking place.
What of the kids that line our nighttime streets, And sell themselves because they have to eat? I know you passed a few outside that store, God, don’t you help the children anymore? When one who loves you lets his whole world go, Why doesn’t God, who saved Abednego, Take His scared, trusting lover from the flame, And bring a matchless glory to His name?
“Three times beaten with rods and one time stoned, Thrice shipwrecked, one night in the deep alone,” Is this the way God sees the blessed meek? As targets for death and calamity? The Devil roams the streets and countryside And takes who he shall find and rips him wide, the wretched righteous call you through the years-- Please tell me you have cotton in your ears!
God set the Evening News down in the mud, And smiled, like I dared to hope he would. And in that one igniting of His eyes, Was life and death and sunset and sunrise. All shades of stars within the Milky Way, And all the flaming colors of the day, The passion of the surf upon the sand, And laughter of the ship in sight of land.
The holy joy of altar-kneeling tears, Through all the multitude of counted years, The sparkle of a thousand glories dead, Hung, hovered in his smile when He said, “You say the ‘pure in heart’—I’ve known one man And only one since all the world began. All outrages, all wounds to soul and skin Pale when compared with what was done to Him.
Those hands bound, that cheek slapped upon the kiss, That head crowned thorny,—yes, I lived through this. Those shoulders robed in mockery and shame, And all the hurting spitting out the Name. That back bared, those arms stretched to take the sting! A man can look at almost anything, But this wrong wrongs the one that has to watch The eye can take a lot, but not that much.
Go on and tell Me what I should have done, —All forces of the universe My own-- Tell Me I should have held the striking hand, And sent that legion scouring the land. You will be right. My child, you will be right. But tell Me what you would have done that night-- Would you have spared the blood within that heart? And left the children crying in the dark?
I thought that I had other things to say-- The wind picked up and took my breath away.
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