I submitted the following poem as an “essay” answer to to a question about predestination and election in my introductory Systematic Theology class in seminary (for my MDiv).
He raised the metal instrument
To break the large, obdurate stone,
Fused and beautifully congruent.
Downward he thrust, painful moan;
Object intractable, to say the least,
His ax couldn’t break the cemented beast.
With his sweat drenched head and brow,
He raised the instrument above his head;
His steadfast strength would not bow
He’ll beat this stone with hands shred.
Muscles flexed, he forced the ax down
Slicing the air, his barbaric yawp did soun’.
Nothing shifted and nothing moved,
Still it laid, this cruel, cemented beast;
He wiped sweat from forehead grooved,
From victors table, he would not feast.
The sun burned down upon his scorched back,
Exhaustion peaked, sleep he did severely lack.
Full body weight rested on the weary ax arm,
Years in this quarry were wearing him thin;
Yet, it wasn’t the rocks that caused him harm,
But ego’s keen control, deep from within.
Sweat beaded on his brow once more,
This mundane task, dogmatically bore.
His face contorted in a painful sneer,
This burden his and only he could win;
His skin taut across ribs, a mere veneer
For his spirit cloaked, Pride’s near kin.
He shifted his weight from left to right
And gripped the heavy instrument tight.
Breath held, he wield the ax through the air,
Both arms craned, in a weird, awkward stretch;
With every fiber of his being, he paused there…
Then one violent movement, to peace a stench,
He threw the ax forward still holding the wooden end
The blade crashed against the stone, unwilling to bend.
His hands released the wretched instrument,
Not of will but from impact an’ vicious friction.
The handle split, and metal head broke atonement—
He was suddenly aware of this ironic sudden action—
His fingers left in a nature’s smooth, relaxed reaching pose,
His eyes trailed toward the wooden fragments still, froze’.
The sun was wickedly relentless at that climatic hour;
Each ray beat down upon his weakened frame,
Man rent useless to fate’s cruel and sublime humor.
This mere stone or act of breaking it, he could not tame.
He hated that sun more and more with each minute passing,
It illuminated his err, highlighted his nicked pride, amassing.
The dull and monotone quarry walls did mock him,
They cried out, laughed; he despised their presence.
His eyes scanned the area from base to quarry rim,
He felt escaping what he claimed….his very essence.
No relief was insight and this job was his to do alone,
With every aching muscle, every twisted joint and bone.
His knees could not bear the weight of ego’s last stand,
They bent and buckled; his mind and will would fight;
But when the body is tired…his knees hit the rocky sand,
He slumped. Man destroyed, beaten by Nature’s might.
His left hand thrust upon the dust near his scraped knee,
He gripped the muted ground…useless…it, too, could flee.
A guttural sob welled in his starved and deprived core,
The shackles around his ankles felt tighter and excruciating,
His hair fell around his face, forcing breath more and more,
His muttered words, inaudible; lips incapable of annunciating.
He used the back of his tanned, ripped and scarred hand
Spreading more blood then clearing brow of fine dust and sand.
Without forewarning or subliminal undertones,
Something shifted and something was un-still,
Breath held in anticipation, dust crossed over stones,
Eyes clenched tight, he sought Earth’s movement spill.
A breeze was starting to pick up from a point farther away,
And he sensed its impending arrival from dust’s desire to play.
It wasn’t long before the wind was full force,
Swooping and twirling, the dust filled the air;
He remained hunched and pressed against sand course,
The wind had become torture, an instrument unfair.
Breath still held, eyes compressed and shut tight,
He let out one prayer from retried will’s fight.
One splat, two…then a forceful, teary succession,
Water from the gray, clouded sky did on him fall.
The wind died and the drops left a muddied impression
On his taut, burned back—his favorite created wall.
The rain poured as the sky busted and suddenly opened up,
This blessing was poring over, spilling from Heaven’s Cup.
Water soaked and drenched his body, mind and soul,
Relaxed muscles, he slowly unfolded, he stood up tall;
A life revived—a man cleansed of dust’s and sand’s toll.
He felt renewed under every drop; he heard Spirit’s Call.
He bent over and grabbed the stubborn cemented beast,
And hurled it toward the most distant point, utterly east.
The stone ungracefully soared through the watery sky,
As the man stood, he awaited the stone’s future landing.
He beheld the cruel object, sternly, in the pupil of his eye
It shattered against other stones. He was the one left standing.
A beautifully tragic ending to an ugly, cemented, beastly stone
That dry was solid and firm; but water weakened, broken by mere bone.
The man gently rolled his head back and enjoyed the still rain,
The water cleansed his brow and pored through unkempt hair.
He knew, in him, something stronger and greater did reign,
Arms outstretched, he desired not to move but there remain.
Not by his strength was he to win this begrudging internal fight,
For it is all by Love’s first gift that opened this passage sealed tight.
He opened his mouth and released vocal chords in a loud, mellifluous laugh,
The notes ran, nay sprinted heavenward; each one filled with joy and delight.
Just like Moses’ song at the sealing of the Red Sea, raising His Victory Staff,
As the Israelites danced in the presence of their God, in His awesome might.
For they, like this man, knew that this was more than mere happenstance,
It was the awesome power of a destined to be, a foreordained circumstance.
–(lre larkin (2004/2005); inspired by Article XVII of The 39 Articles.) Originally posted at www.mbird.com: http://www.mbird.com/2008/11/man-and-stone-part-i/ and http://www.mbird.com/2008/11/man-and-stone-part-ii/