I am on retreat,
at Wernersville, my spiritual home. The
place where God and I wrestle, where I
demand a blessing. And I am frightened.
For most of my life, I have believed that
perfection must be attained in every
action, thought, intention. For most of
my life, I have felt the weight of my
failure to achieve that goal. For most of
my life I have been motivated by guilt,
shame, fear. Part of me knows this is
ridiculous. But a more demanding part
assures me it is the only path to
face a decision that can be considered
not only a failure but also sin. Divorce.
The death of a relationship but in some
ways more painful than a death. It is
murder or at least mercy killing. How can
I speak of my faith, my relationship with
God, when I am sinning?
people have responded with love and
mercy, wrapped me in their arms as I sob,
placed hands of blessing and absolution
on my head. Just as I have spoken to
others of Gods love and mercy. Laid
hands on others heads.
cant I extend that hand to myself?
Another failure to add to the list.
possible that anyone can love me as I
conflicting theology, wounds,
dysfunctions, and all? Is it possible for
me to celebrate the me God created
. . . Karen . . . exactly as I am, here,
now? Is it possible for me to believe in
in the balcony, looking at the mosaic of
the crucifixion as I sob, Lord, I
believe, help me in my unbelief.
The cross, symbol of pain and glory . . .
the rainbow flames surrounding it,
promising the life-sustaining Spirit to
come . . . the halo, crown of the King of
heaven and earth . . . the blood pouring
from his body, symbol of eternal
loveall speak to me of a love I
cannot comprehend. All add to my load of
shame and guilt.
form the words Fear not, and
I speak Gods assurance through
for I have redeemed you:
I have called you by your name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the
I will be with you;
And through the rivers,
they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire
you shall not be burnedand the flame
shall not consume you.
For I am THE Lord, your God,
The Holy One of Israel,
You are precious in my eyes,
and I love you.
Can a woman forget the child
at her breast
so that she would have no
compassion on the
son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will never forget you.
Your name is written
on the palms of my hands.
Isaiah 43 and 49, NRSV)
your name is written on the palms of my
Look. My eyes are drawn to Christs
hands. My name is there. The nails
printed my name . . . my name. I
find it hard to articulate. But my name
is there, on his hands. By accepting the
nails he put my name there.
punishment. No. This is not about shame.
Its about a love too extravagant to
describe. I struggle with half-formed
thoughts, images, memories. Anything I
say sounds masochistic, pietistic,
stupid. My heart knows this truth but
there are no words that make sense. Lord,
give me the words.
Look at my hands. The scars on my hands
spell out your name.
at Christs hands and see my name.
He loved me: Karen. Not just the whole
world, all humans, but me. Those scars
are there because of his love for me,
Karen. Those scars are my name on his
hands, Karen. When he looks at the scars,
he does not see my failures. No. He is
filled with desire to hold and protect
are not the scars of a victim. They are
the scars of a parent, of a lover who
joyfully risked all for his beloved
daughter. Who made a decision not out of
compulsion or guilt but so he could hold
out his hand and say, Look, Karen,
look at my hands. There is your
can I do in the presence of this love but
fall on my knees and cry, I am not
worthy to receive you, but only speak the
word, and I shall be healed.
I have spoken the word. It is Jesus. You
love, how can it be that Christ my God
should die for me?
is on your hands. The scars are my name.
You dont show them to punish me.
You dont push them in my face
asking, How could you do this to
me? You show them to comfort me.
They are a symbol of hope, of healing, of
protection, of extravagant, abandoned,
passionate love beyond any I have ever or
will ever experience on this earth.
when they ask you, Why did you do
this? Your answer is a look of
amazement. Why? Because she is
mine. Because I love her.
tears continue but now they accompany an
anthem of praise for the vision planted
in my soul many years ago, nurtured by
men and women who saw what Christ sees:
Karen. Karen, precious, honored, beloved
child of God. The vision I am beginning
to see as well.
stand, reluctant to leave. Knowing the
struggle is not over. Realizing old
habits die hard. But also assured that
holding me are the hands of God, hands
imprinted with my name.
Jantzi, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, is a
life-long teacher and learner. After
completing her Ph.D., she hopes to write
and teach in international settings.
Anabaptist by birth and choice, her
spiritual journey has also been enriched
by writers, poets, composers, musicians,
ministers, priests, and ordinary people
from many different faith traditions.