But the world is more often refuge
than evidence, comfort and covert
for the flinching will, rather than the sharp
particulate instants through which God’s being burns
into ours. I say God and mean more
than the bright abyss that opens in that word.
I say world and mean less
than the abstract oblivion of atoms
out of which every intact thing emerges,
into which every intact thing finally goes.
I do not know how to come closer to God
except by standing where a world is ending
for one man. It is still dark,
and for an hour I have listened
to the breathing of the woman I love beyond
my ability to love. Praise to the pain
scalding us toward each other, the grief
beyond which, please God, she will live
and thrive. And praise to the light that is not
yet, the dawn in which one bird believes,
crying not as if there had been no night
but as if there were no night in which it had not been.
“One Time” by Christian Wiman.
Read my pal Matthew Sitman’s brilliant essay on Wiman, which opens with the following evaluation of “One Time” and what it means in the context of modern American Christianity.
Whatever else these heavy words might express, they reveal the paradoxical essence of Christianity, that there is no experience of resurrection that does not go through the cross, that defeat and despair mark the places from which solace unexpectedly emerges.
This capacity to avoid the empty optimism of so much American religion – the word “abyss” appears more than once in “One Time” – finds balance, however, in the flickering hope that also appears…
Listen to Wiman talk with Sitman and Andrew Sullivan, in an illuminating discussion of faith, doubt, meaning in suffering, and Philip Larkin, right here.
The photo: taken in the Dead Sea in Israel