My family has long been in the practice of reading aloud in the evening. Instead of turning on the TV, we open a book and take turns relating to each other the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the Mysterious Island, Screwtape, Oliver Twist, Frodo and Sam, the Pevensies, and the Swallows and Amazons. The blessings we have reaped from this practice are too numerous to mention, and somewhat beside the point I wish to make in this post.
This year, we added something new to our evening routine: poetry. Before digging in to whatever book is on the menu, we read one or two poems from one of the great poets, then spend time discussing their meaning. We began with George Herbert, and the results have been stunning. His poems are striking in their beauty and depth. His devotion to God, his humility, his gift with words never fail to fill us with a sense of wonder. We frequently read them several times over, discovering layer after layer of meaning.
One poem in particular has stuck with me. I cannot shake its hold, and I do not particularly want to. The title is Good Friday, and the part that has staked a claim on me is contained in the final three stanzas:
Since bloud is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloudie fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sinne:
That when sinne spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sinne may say,
No room for me, and flie away.
Sinne being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sinne take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
I love the way Herbert expresses his longing for God to overthrow the rule of sin in his life. The sufferings of Christ, His whips, nails, wounds, and woes are the enemies, the foes of sin. When they lodge in us, when we understand the passion of Christ and it has become deeply instantiated in our own being, sin’s hold on us is immeasurably weakened, and there is more room in which God may reside.
I am no idealist. I know that sinless perfection is not possible this side of Heaven. But these words state perfectly what I want in my own life and have now have become a prayer. I want the foes of sin to be written so deeply into the fabric of my being that sin is forced to say “no room for me”, and flie away. I want God to fill and keep the space vacated by sin so that, when I finally appear before Him in glory, He will be able to clearly read what He has written.