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Face to Face

I wrote this poem many years ago. It is, I admit, perhaps a bit odd. But it was written out of the recognition that submitting to Christ and dying to self is hard - terribly hard. We see that very clearly in Romans 7, where Paul talks about the battle between flesh and spirit. So for all of us who have struggled or are struggling to die to self that we might live in Christ, I offer you this intimate view of the battleground - and of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, our Champion!

Four corners, set not far apart

the sides between twelve paces spanned

no single soul within did tread

and silence hung o'er every head.

The watchers clothed in brilliant white

to worship at the Champion's feet;

no person waited at my side

nor desired to my victory meet.

This battle, hand to hand I sought,

but knew the outcome sure within.

It was to lose I entered here;

the agony of death to bear.

The multitudes of pure in heart

some of spirit, some of flesh

in praise and adoration part

as enters in the Champion.

His body is of burnished bronze

and robed in perfect holiness

His strength of hand and righteous power

are Love's incarnate Godliness.

I know myself in human strength,

I know I cannot hope to win;

yet I will strive with You, my God,

until I am full cleansed from sin.

The saw that hangs low at my side

is blackened doubt and dogged pride

and hard is wrenched at my heart

to see His sword of purest white.

From cross the space where self would shed

its ugly skin, I raised my eye

condemned, I knew, and yet the sky

framed blue His head and His gaze I

could not meet for it killed my soul

to see the compassion and the toll

that scarred His brow and marked His hands

beneath the sheathes of bronze He wore;

and knowing my look He gently bore

them off his wrists and tendons led

from strength to bone, there pierced.

I, dry-mouthed and cringing, turned my head.

Silence. And I knew that heaven judged me

weighed my doubt and stripped my faith

to my bare hope from which I cried

to build anew a life to love

and serve the Champion.

"It is enough. You have come;

now we shall end this wandering."

His sword sheered forth and out

and inscribed with fire on its blade

were words I longed to kneel and read

now flashed a nova in my eyes

a brilliant arc to come to rest

tip gentle on the grassy ground.

His foot stepped in, crossed the line

that held my soul in doubt's confine,

and I stepped forth, heart suddenly calm

I knew I met Almighty God, omnipotent

and though I longed to drop my sword

I knew that dropping would not leave my ward,

but, broken by the Champion's hand,

it would shatter and I would stand.

A breath a lunge, the Champion strikes

as lightning shouts and leaps up high

and catches on my saw-toothed edge –

and yet I cry a smile touches at His lips

as scrapes His blade from off mine own

though sure His aim and strong His arm

He would not now complete the stroke.

So circled we, and His broad back

easy took the next attack

with a simple lifting of His arms

to bring the sword-blade up –

and sweep my blow from His pure chest.

Light the blows and sure the ringing

from our clashes on His side

His burden laughing, springing high,

my own dying but desperate I –

Quick! – half a step and deep His eyes

low His brow and struck me down

my sword broken as my will

and yet I rolled beneath His skill

as cast He off His weapon to

the waiting throng that ringed the edge

and flexed His hands to grasp my length

and bring me down to grass and rock –

He had known my broken pride.

Tendons seared beyond the strain

and His breath hot upon the air

as forced my twisting torso down

no games we played, not here, not now;

my back breaking, dust and sweat

to dust and dust, I cried against

His punishing arms – eyes tight, then wide,

I gulped a breath

and choked the grit of dirt and sob

then locked –

my salt-fed gaze on naked arms.


A scream wrenched out, desperate, high,

and I fought Him: both against and for;

dark glorious paradox, O son of man, I.

Faster than my final throes,

iron hard and adamant,

He grasped my head and forced it back

His knee found purchase on my chest,

my final twist tore at my skull

and bared my throat.

The wind touched me.

Brought coolness through my sweat.

Those waiting watched; some, eyes closed.

"My sword."

One knelt and gave it Him, head bowed.

My fingers drew trembling through the grass.

His eyes found mine; wordless, asked.

"Yes, Lord." Clear sight and ready.

The bar of sun held angled on the sky,

unwavering, awaited, steady.

He never released me; eased my cry.

Sword bloodied, and the vast of emptiness

sobbed my soul and I clung to Him:

tried, but too weak to reach.

He clasped my arm and held me close,

His murmurs my mouth cannot repeat.

Firm as rock against His side

He raised me up, and boundless wide

a shout of triumph split the plain,

praised as I with full refrain

His rightful place in His demesne –

The Champion!

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