There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that would be written. —John 21:24–25
He cried when he slid out, a slippery fish, his mortal lungs unready for the rush. He took his mother’s breast like a starved kid. He craved meat young, forced his fist in the dish. He tottered to his feet when he was one, and brought his father to his eager knees. He learned to walk, but never learned to run. He napped, read books, talked to the trees. When he turned twelve, he fell in love with fire. He’d light his torches underneath the stars, heave them towards the lights in the night sky mapping the distance, counting the hours. He studied the sun as it rose and fell. He envied it, but did not tell.
Back a week from the grave. He pecks at the food his sisters set before him. He is afraid to sleep. He imagines the eyes of everyone upon him but they are careful not to stare, a meaningless courtesy: the midday sun consumes both sight and soul. His funeral shroud is unburnt—he won’t allow it—but his sisters refuse to permit its being brought into the house. Sometimes they catch him holding it to his face and weeping into it. It smells so foully that not even the crows will approach it. He rarely speaks but sometimes talks of going away. It is almost, to their shame, to be wished for.
We take turns monitoring the storm’s approach; I’ve rolled the awnings, taken laundry from the lines. Dull strips of cloud stretch from the west; Wind-prodded, trees wake from an afternoon’s listlessness.
My wife completes one last stitch from her sewing. In the lull, I read from Genesis: Yahweh. Fed and rested in the shade of a terebinth tree, Walks toward Sodom and Gomorrah, cities of the plains.
Their contempt, we can be sure, is unforgiven. We know by instinct not to meddle with such intimacy. The tornado sirens sound; all over town, citizens Descend to their basements. The temperature drops.
Wind and rain begin their agony; divine demonstrations. My wife kisses me, covered with the cinders of Lot’s hope.
Perhaps you are perplexed to determine how two such disparate stories could be told about me. But the truth hides somewhere between and beyond these accounts—I was neither a poor beggar nor a wealthy intimate of God’s Son.
If in these tales I appear as a mere prop—a passive player in parables concerned with actors who wielded some form of genuine power—thus far you may credit each tale: I had no voice. Dumb from birth, the real miracle for me would have been to speak.
And yet this never seemed to me a curse or even a lack— I grew to love my silence, and in my early years I was thought to be simply shy as my maternal sisters supplied my voice in public encounters. Indeed, their ready reading of my intent was all the miracle I craved.
I neither anticipated nor needed any return from the grave—that was about his need, his purpose, not mine. And to be enfolded in the arms of Abraham like some Isaac or Ishmael, my sight simply a torment to some rich fool—what is that to me? To you?
Study war no more
Mar 18, 2011
Michael Izbicki grew up in a nondenominational church in California. A National Merit Scholarship finalist, he chose to go to the U.S. Naval Academy out of a sense of duty to his country during a time of war. At the naval academy he began to doubt whether the career to which he had committed himself could be squared with the tenets of just war doctrine. He got in trouble when he responded no to this exam question: "If given the order, would you launch a missile carrying a nuclear warhead?" After a four-year legal battle, the navy discharged him as a conscientious objector. Izbicki may have to reimburse the service for part or all of his education (New York Times, February 22).