Bad Homburg, Germany. It’s a fairly quaint and nondescript town, other than its proximity to Frankfurt (25 km) and some apparently notable hot springs. Because of RyanAir scheduling, I couldn’t get a flight to Dublin until the day after the choir left for the States. We all spent the night here in Bad Homburg last night, and they left this morning for the Frankfurt airport. For me, it was a choice between staying in Bad Homburg for one more night, or riding the bus to Frankfurt with the choir and spending the night in a hostel in the middle of the red-light district. So I opted to stay in Bad Homburg. It’s a bit of an awkward in-between day. Tomorrow evening I’ll be in Ireland.
The upside is that I’m the only occupant of a double room in the hostel. I woke up early to see the choir off, and then spent the remainder of the morning journaling, and reading Buechner and Ephesians. It’s been raining off and on all day today, so it’s been a bit gloomy. This afternoon, I explored the grounds of the castle next door, climbed the castle tower, took a walk through the park to the hot springs, strolled through the old part of town, stopped for a cup of coffee and to read a bit of Marilynne Robinson’s Home, checked out the train station to be sure I can actually get to Frankfurt tomorrow, and returned to the castle, where the downpour ensued, before heading back. A quiet day, overall.
Give me clean hands and a pure heart. This has been my prayer today. In Gilead, Robinson’s character John Ames shares a helpful decision-making tool. Think of it this way: if you got a do-over for the decision you’re about to make, what would you choose? If you could have a second chance to choose, which choice would you make? Now that you’ve thought about it, make that decision the first time. Perhaps it sounds obvious, but thinking this way has given me good insight into the art of choosing wisely, why I sometimes hesitate to say and do things, and the role of intuition and clear thinking in my choices. I want consistently to say and think and do things that I can be proud of, and I want to be the sort of person who can be believed and trusted. I suppose I want holiness. That sounds like showy piety. I don’t mean it to sound that way. I want clean hands and a pure heart. Lord knows I don’t have either, especially not the pure heart. Lord knows I judge and lust and slander more than I’d ever let on. And that sounds like false humility. I hope it is not.
I want to show how shimmering and bright the Gospel is, like Frederick Buechner and Marilynne Robinson. I want my writing to drip with grace, like Flannery O’Connor and George Herbert, or teem with raw, broken, suffering humanity, like Greene. I want it to cut through the confusion and the noise like C. S. Lewis, or to show, like Tolkien, that the universe is one great sacrament, one great, enduring act of love. I want it to be winsomely uncomfortable, like Huxley, and to be painfully vulnerable, like Christina Rossetti and Sara Teasdale. But I so often feel that I am hopelessly trite and cliché and pedantic; like Rossetti, that I am witless and wordless and stonehearted. And so, in addition to the cry for clean hands and a pure heart, I repeat her words like liturgy, words that are undoubtedly far more musical than any I will ever craft.
A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears.
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perished thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.