This is a sonnet from a series I am doing as a part of a collaborative effort with artists: Asher McClain and Jennifer Edwards entitled Ashes to Eternity. Each Sunday through Lent, the three of us are installing a piece which corresponds to a weekly theme. These themes of Lent and Easter are: ashes, baptism, wilderness, temptation, pilgrimage, palm, love, rent, and resurrection. The installations include a poem which I am contributing, a wood burning which denotes the theme by Asher McClain, and an abstract tapestry weaving by Jennifer Edwards.

This  week’s theme is “wilderness”, and I’ve written a sonnet for it. In this poem, I imagine our own wanderings in places of isolation and difficulty in the way in which the Israelites wandered in the desert. We do not willingly choose the wilderness, but it is thrust upon us. In the wilderness, that for which we desire and long is oftentimes frustrated or delayed, and we must come to surrender to the confession, “Thy will be done.”

In the sonnet I make use of a play on the words: “wild”, “willed”, “would”, and “wold”. I can’t quite explain it, but I continue to be captivated by George Herbert’s uses of the same which in his day could have been spelled the same and read as interchangeable because spelling had not been codified. Malcolm Guite comments masterfully about Herbert’s poem, The Pilgrimage” in his Lenten devotional, Word in the Wilderness.

Our “wills” and “woulds”, those things which denote our plans, purposes, and conditions, ultimately find their exposure and surrender in the transposition of the wilderness, but thankfully we are not left there. In the wilderness, though we find our hearts laid bare, we also find that God, in Jesus Christ, has laid bare his heart for us and that his heart pours itself out in love to us.

If it is helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

I was driven into this wilderness
By threat pursued. I had no other choice;
Turned out of comfort, to drink bitterness;
Stifled in silence, none hearing my voice.
I cried my willed plans there in the wild;
My tears of would littered, watered my wold;
Dejected, alone, helpless as a child,
Struggling to keep my heart from growing cold.

But Your will in this wild, I now can see
O’ershadows above as cloud and fire;
Your presence, a banner of love over me
Foretasting my thirst’s hope and desire.
For you, in the wild of my want and thirst
Brought water from a Rock, who for me was cursed.

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: Francois Perrier (1590-1650) Moses draws water from the Rock, oil on canvas, 1642.

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