Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)
By Helen Paynter
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Bitter are the words of G-d to me, for I have tasted them, and have vomited them upon my nation. Sour are his words on my breath, like acid upon the tongue.
Daily I bend my back beneath his law. Daily I honour the One who is the Deliverer of Israel; the One who led his people out of Egypt and covenanted with them in faithfulness. His holy days I observe. False gods I shun and abhor.
Is this not enough? Will he not be satisfied with this fastidious observance of my duty?
No, for this is the One who consumes. Who takes all that I give, and then will take me, too.
Unbidden, uninvited, unwelcome came his words to me, through me. I spewed them upon my neighbours because I could do no other.
I will go to the Temple, will take my complaint to the place where he dwells in majesty. Like Abraham of old, I will bargain. When will be enough? How long will he bend me to his will?
Cool and dim are the courts of the LORD, absorbing me into their stillness. But their quiet fails to placate. I will seek justice. I will be rid of this unwelcome yoke he has placed upon me.
No priest, I must remain in the outer court. But it is near enough for my purpose. I raise my shawl to my head and begin my complaint.
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
Suddenly, a fragrance assaults my nostrils. Clean, pleasing, wholesome, like water to my soul. Unfamiliar, yet it whispers to my heart of Heaven. My tongue becomes clay in my mouth.
My ears! It is as if a Hand has unstopped them. That music! The notes spin to heaven in dizzying rapture. Crystal arpeggios set in harmonies of cedar. Glory beyond disclosing.
Oh – the heavens are rent. I see him - I see him. Elohim, Lord most majestic. I see him! The hosts around him - the glory. Bow, I must bow. Oh, it burns me! I cannot turn away. The throne! Fire on fire. The One who is seated on it - his glory spills and saturates the whole Temple. It is too much. Creatures nearby. Like… like nothing I know. Wings everywhere. Their voices terrible, shivering the foundations. Their praises thick as smoke into every corner of this most blessed place.
Oh, miserable man! He has turned his eyes to me. The One on the throne is looking. I cannot bear it – he sears me with his scrutiny. My body is a charnel house before his purity. Let mountains fall on me! Hide me from his gaze! Where can I go? No use running from the Temple – his glory floods out to the ends of the earth. I crush my hands over my eyes but his blistering scrutiny continues. I am utterly undone. My mouth should have been a pure vessel for his words but my lips befoul them even as they are spoken. And your people – how putrid is this nation. How rank before your glory. Oh forgive me! I have seen your glory and I am not worthy!
But I am not consumed. Though I burn, yet still I am. What marvel is this?
I part my fingers a fraction. An angel has left the Presence, something held in tongs before him. He draws close and touches my lips – oh, the pain. The blessed, blessed pain – I am purified.
A voice in my ear, soft as thunder, irresistible as a heart-beat. ‘Who will go for us? Whom shall I send to be my messenger?’
And finally I am prostrate before the throne. ‘I will go. Send me, Lord. Please send me!’
Quotation from Psalm 6, New International Version
Story loosely based on Isaiah 6
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