I would approach You, Lord, but don’t know how.
Whatever stepping stones I once discerned
(Cool in the footloose morning, oh how they burned!)
Are well below my touching, lost to me now.
This layered-over life does not allow
For boyish ease forever, I have learned.
And so this crust of soil must now be turned;
The shining task will need a manly plow.
But where to set the blade? where begin?
I cast my eyes to heaven’s nowhere space,
But skyward, Lord, I cannot hope to trace
My way to You. The tilling goes too thin.
Like a plow, a prayer should leave a mark.
I look for You on earth and in the dark.
This is the first sonnet from the Prologue in Christopher Fitzgerald’s Sonnets to the Unseen: A Life of Christ (my copy was published by the author, 2001; it is apparently now published by World Library Publications, but their site is malfunctioning at the moment so I can’t give a link right now; it is available in many places on the web). If I remember correctly, I was originally drawn to this smart little book by the chance reading of an article about the author, in some local paper’s website, covering him as a cancer-survivor who’d written a history of Christ in sonnet format. As Shakespeare’s Sonnets are some of my favorite reading, I sent off an order for the book right away, back in 2001. Now, a meditation on the life of Christ in sonnet form may seem unbearable to some, but it’s really quite effective, being occasionally quirky, and often wondrous. Sometimes it seems we’re eavesdropping on a conversation between God and the author, which is always a delight when it’s done well, as it certainly is here! All this is accomplished with the firm-footed balance of a seemingly newly-gained true maturity (that clarity from illness I mentioned yesterday, perhaps?) that hasn’t yet forgotten the wonder of youth and yet which thankfully doesn’t insist on a false, pretentious, and inappropriate youthfulness, which is unfortunately common trait in literature these days (e.g. the explosion of novelistic solipsism — barf!). And such subject matter he has chosen! Mr. Fitzgerald’s sonnets are a delight to read. I’ll leave you with another, from page 5, in which the playful rhyme belies the serious theme:
Created in Your image? How is that?
We mortals truly are of foolish stuff,
Engaged in one great game of blind man’s buff.
What image is there here worth looking at?
What god equates with bone and body fat,
Which come to nothing, given time enough,
As we our mortal coil ingloriously slough
On taking leave of this our habitat.
If we on earth are in Your image made,
What does that say of You? Forgive me, Lord.
My doubts are such they cannot be ignored.
Because of what I’ve seen of man’s parade
Through each day’s version of the evening news,
This “image” talk serves only to confuse.