This poem is based on Psalm 199:65-80, and is next in the series The Disciple’s Alphabet.
In the poem I imagine the psalmist reflecting on their previous suffering and how that affliction was employed to teach and sanctify. The psalmist speaks of the insolent and their scoffing of whom the psalmist himself was once a companion but are now those whom he has forsaken for another, the Lord and His word. This is the same story told through the lives of God’s people: suffering compels one to cry out, some cry out to the Lord, and some of those to receive His word.
As I’ve worked through this series it has been helpful to have a Bible character in mind to help expand on the passage’s themes. Rather than decided beforehand, these person usually emerge as I write, and in this poem, I found Simon of Cyrene. There is nothing in Simon’s story to indicate that any of my attributions are historical fact. I think it likely that he knew Psalm 119 and that he was a sinner who would’ve said of the Lord, “you are good and you do good” (Psalm 119:68). Though I am making use of his story, these are my imaginings, and I wouldn’t want any future meeting of Simon to lead to the misunderstanding that I presumed to know what his life or experience was like. However, I cannot help but wonder how his experience changed and shaped him.
A powerful image that further stoked my imagination is a sentence from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis 2 and the creation of Eve. He writes,
The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.
Carrying the cross of Jesus, for and with Jesus, is a powerful image. Being there, on his wedding day, by his side “under his arm to be protected and near to his heart to be beloved” is both tender care and loving service — sacrifice and devotion.
To return to his side in repentance, take up his cross, resume my place “near his heart where I had always been” seems to capture for me my life-long experience of repentance in the gospel even as I set out again in self-will and self-determination from which the Lord will call me back again through suffering to his side.
If it is helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
I knew it all; I had my way;
Lived for what I could get that day;
The truth was whatever I’d say–
Whatever would pay the rent.
Then to suffering’s school I was sent
Whose tutors took my ignorance,
They bowed my stiff neck, broke, and bent
My back neath hardships load.
A man took for me what I owed,
Bore the crowd’s curse when he stumbled, slowed,
Slipped, and fell on th’blood spattered stones
Of Jerusalem’s roadside.
They saw my shock, pulled me aside,
Made me carry, yoked with him, tied
To the one I’d always denied–
The one I’d never let in.
Under the weight I walked for him
Who bore my shame, paid for my sin,
Close to his heart where I’d always been
Though I’d ever wander and stray
I know it all; I’ll have my way.
© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem 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: Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons