Someday I will probably have to split my life story in three. One titled darkness, and the other light…and the one that falls between will be somewhat a grey area…where the line between there and here is so thin, they intertwine, mingle and shove me into a murky trench. My story will tell of the journey from one end, the stop in the middle, and the glorious emergence to the other side. Of these two sides, are poets who touch me deeply, Sylvia Plath on one side, and Charles Wesley on the other.
I am not writing about Plath today. Fine poet she was, her influence on me will not be forgotten. I write about Charles Wesley, another poet who was not superhuman, note it…he was mortal like us, and so like us he lived, and died…he had his own journey and if you pay attention to his works, you’d know it was not always smooth. As a Christian, and a writer, i relate to Wesley as closely as I relate to Plath.
Known to have written over 6000 hymns, Charles Wesley was no doubt a great poet. His hymns are so popular I am sure most of you sing them without knowing he authored it. He, of course, is one of my favourite hymnists (yes I am a lover of hymns) Even those I cannot sing, I read. They are, after all, poems.
As I read through most of his hymns, I couldn’t help but wonder what his struggles were – his uptimes, and downtimes. What was the Christian life like for Mr. Wesley? The man wrote with such a personal touch, one can only believe he wrote of his own experiences. I dare call them confessional pieces. And I am a sucker for those, especially when they mirror my present state, when they seem to cry out for me, at moments when words desert me, at moments when I just need to offload, but I find my pen dry and my mind too crammed with emotions scattered all over the place, when I cannot sit still and churn them out with a little effort, I resort to the poetry of others. For we are one of a kind, but of course, different exposures, different minds and yet I believe each poet finds one or more of its kind he/she can completely relate to.
This morning, after church service, I felt the need to read one of his works, and again, it was just what I needed. Just the prayer I wanted to pray, just what I was feeling, the very questions that were sitting in my heart, blessed Jesus, I broke down and cried. That is a great poet. Long gone but his works live so vibrantly they enter into your very soul and shake you up, you cannot stand…it sends you down your knees because it speaks so well for you and of you! Bless him! Let me share what I read with you.
The title is Depth of Mercy.
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!
I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.
Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.
Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?
If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.
Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.
Kindled His relentings are,
Me He now delights to spare,
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.
Lo! I still walk on the ground:
Lo! an Advocate is found:
“Hasten not to cut Him down,
Let this barren soul alone.”
There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.
Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.
There is a true story behind this hymn…one that happened many, many years ago. An actress in a town in England, while passing along the street, heard singing in a house. Out of curiosity she looked in through the open door and saw a number of people sitting together singing this hymn. She listened to the song, and afterwards to a simple but earnest prayer. When she went away the hymn had so impressed her that she procured a copy of a book containing it. Reading and re-reading the hymn led her to give her heart to God and to resolve to leave the stage. The manager of the theater pleaded with her to continue to take the leading part in a play which she had made famous in other cities, and finally he persuaded her to appear at the theater. As the curtain rose the orchestra began to play the accompaniment to the song which she was expected to sing. She stood like one lost in thought, and the band, supposing her embarrassed, played the prelude over a second and a third time. Then with clasped hands she stepped forward and sang with deep emotion:
“Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?”
This put a sudden stop to the performance; not a few were impressed, though many scoffed. The change in her life was as permanent as it was singular. Soon after she became the wife of a minister of the Gospel.
I will not say much more, but that the creative being must choose where it wants to be…and there, in darkness or in light, write…go on and write! In all its honesty, it will touch those it is meant to touch, infuriate some, repel some…but stay true to your art and where you stand (even if you stand there alone) and like Plath, or Wesley…you will attain immortality, if you get what I mean.