Tumbling in the Sand
Text: Isaiah 4: 2-6
Let me give you a couple of scenes that flash in my mind as I read this text.
The first I imagine is a soldier—of ancient times—
standing in the midst of the carnage after a battle
covered in blood—his own and so many others
cries of those not quite dead—his own friends and companions—
beginning to shake his nerves
beginning to cause him to wonder what had happened
and why so many had died for who knows what.
suddenly unsure even where to take his next step.
The second scene I imagine is a city picking up after such a battle.
Their women victims of rape—a common act of war (even today)
their buildings spattered with blood
charred from fire
So many dead.
So much devastation
Those left, overwhelmed
feeling guilty for surviving while others did not.
Not even sure where to start.
The third scene I imagine is another city
marked by a different kind of violence
the kind of violence caused by extremes of poverty
the kind of violence caused by drugs and gangs
the kind of violence caused by people being ignored, trampled, abused for too long
And then, above all these scenes I hear the words of Lady Macbeth
where she is sleepwalking, tormented by her guilt for helping to kill the king.
She is obsessively rubbing her hands:
“Out, damned spot! out, I say!
… What, will these hands ne’er be clean?—
Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this
little hand. O, O, O!”
The guilt of violence and war
the guilt of all the things that we do or do not do that contribute to hurt in this world
and in our lives
and in our loved ones lives
can weigh so heavily on us.
And sometimes, when we look around it is so easy to wonder if it is actually possible for things to get better
if our guilt will ever go away
if our world will ever be healed
if our own wounds, carried deep within, will ever finally mend.
And it is into that context that Isaiah speaks:
… once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst …
Yes, Lady Macbeth,
there is enough water to cleanse your soul
—to cleanse the world
And that is our hope:
that God will, in fact make all of this new
that by a spirit of judgement and by a spirit of burning
God will pour God’s self out into this world
and that soldier will be washed clean and healed
that city will be cleansed and restored
our world so full of violence and hurt will be filled with truth and justice and love
And that we who have our own battle scars and bloodstains, we will be made new, holy and set free.
Featured image “Lady Macbeth” by Nienor.