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Death Grip

The thing that we count as precious
Is the thing we will carry with us

Like a child and his favorite blanket
With its silky border against his cheek.

By this we know that we count God
As precious, when we carry him

When we set our hearts to converse with him
And our minds to reach for him,
And our eyes to behold him.

When we know He’s in the room
Right now. Sitting next to me
And across from me,
Within me.

How precious is God to me?
Do I esteem Him as precious?

Do I leave him waiting outside the office door
Until I clock out for the day?

Or tell him, “just one minute
While I discipline my kids.”

Or “Pardon me, Jesus,
I need to take this one.
It’s an emergency.”

Or “Jesus, can you wait over there
While I write this poem for you?”

Or “Jesus, can you sit tight
While I suffer this agony, or
Feel this joy, or achieve this success …

Excuse me a moment while I
Live my life."

Is God really precious to me?
Does his counsel matter to me?
Do I ask him what he thinks
Or feels about a thing?

Do I ask his permission?
Request his approval?
Let him know how much
I love him and appreciate him
A thousand times a day?

Do I dive into the depths of suffering
And search for his face, as for buried treasure
Hidden amongst the barnacled wreckage,

Turning it all upside down
Just to find a trace of Him

A breath of Him
A whisper of His


Do I plead with my own heart
On his behalf, to love him,
Shaking my heart and yelling
“Wake up, wake up! And
Value what is good and virtuous.”

Or do I let my sluggish heart sleep till noon,
Dreaming of things that don’t matter,
Loving things that rot.

Do I scan the horizon of every moment for Jesus,
Do I strain my eyes to see him who is invisible?

I am convinced that we are all, every day
At our desks, facing a very special kind of exam.

The test is a simple one.
The bell rings; the exam begins.

Will I count God as precious today?
How much does he matter to me?

My hands will tell the truth.
My feet. The ruminations of my mind,
The actions of my lips
My life will tell the truth.

What does my life say?
No just my lips – my life?  
This is the test.

The heart of man is a riddle,
A mystery. A dead-ending maze with
Twists and angles and crevices.

But the test will reveal it.
Life will solve the riddle of my heart
For me and for everyone.  

Is it all just religion, or culture, or pretense,
Or do I believe that Jesus is the Christ
The son of the living God? Do I believe this?
Do I breathe this? Is it real?

In a single 24 hour period
There are one million things
That will assault my senses

Bills, meals, dishes, paychecks,
Awkward silences, uncomfortable problems,
Offensive personalities, “why me?” situations.

One million things.

There is a perfect moment, when the baby
Finally stops screaming. She closes her eyes.
I am afraid to even breathe. She takes a deep breath.
Her body relaxes. She is finally going to sleep.
And it is at this perfect moment
That a fire truck screams down the road.

One million things.

Stuck in traffic.
Taking a shower.  
Diagnosed with glaucoma.
Internet stopped working in the middle of a demo.
What will I do for my wife on our anniversary?

One million things.

There are one million things to go into and out of.
Life is an undulating thing, a roller coaster road.
And it will test my grip.
Always. That is what is being tested.

I say that God is precious to me.
How precious?
Sitting on the mantle collecting dust precious?

Or do I hold my God in a Death Grip
Refusing to let go, even as the world
Falls apart around me and I plunge.

The prybar of life is
Relentless.  Pulling and yanking
My fingertips, biting and wrenching
And screaming into my ear
Tapping my forehead
Like a Chinese water torture,
Begging and pleading,
Finding frayed strands
Of my heart and pulling,
Lying and cajoling, murmuring,
Whispering, slapping and beating,



To get me to open my fingers
Release my grip.
And lose.  And lose.
Not Christ, but the experience of Christ.
I cannot lose Christ, but I can lose
Christ in this moment,
My provision. The one who could have
Redeemed this moment.

The redeemer of moments.

How many moments
Have I wasted? How many moments
Could have been filled with the glory
Of Christ, a blazing redemption,
But I let go. With these fingers. 

I must learn a Death Grip.
My heart must come to know
Who is precious. And cling.

Because the time comes for all of us
When the world comes to an end.
I do not mean apocalypse.
I mean fundamental change.
The moment when nothing will ever be the same.
The massive tectonic plates of life
That seemed so sturdy, have shifted and the very ground
I walk on has betrayed me with a shudder, with a groan,
And I am cast into darkness. And silence.
Where faith is no longer theoretical.
But necessary for survival.  

And we will be reduced.
To ashes. Reduced to our simplest form.
Like fractions. 

Pray with me. Pray with me.
That in this place, the place of pressure,
That we continue to clutch his robe,
Though the whole world
Call us fools, like Job’s wife hissing
In agony and rage: “Curse God and die!”

Pray with me.
That when our faith is tried,
It might be found true gold,
And not just a shiny trinket,
A gum wrapper glittering
In the grass.

Let us love God
All the way down to our bones
Holding his face in a Death Grip
With every fiber and muscle, so tight,
That we would be torn in half first
That our blood would spray
Before we would ever let go.

Pray for us.

This poem was read at Alethia Church on 9/18/11.
Click the link below to download this poem in MS Word. 
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