A Voice You Love

Happy Holy Week – hands down my favorite week of the year, culminating in Easter Sunday. Today, of course, is Maundy Thursday. I’ve been focusing my reading on the gospel of John and two spectacular little books of art: The Art of Lent and The Art of Holy Week and Easter, both by Sister Wendy Beckett. Her comments on the paintings below, which appear in her latter book, have left deep impressions on me.

Jesus Stripped of His Garments, by Albert Herbert. Source: Englandgallery.com
Christ on the Cross, by El Greco. Sister Beckett states: “Christ on the Cross by El Greco is an astonishment and a delight to me, because here — and this for me is unique — I find the Passion understood rather than just shown.” Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve also been alternating between The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein and my sixth reading of The Hobbit. It’s interesting to me, and a little disappointing, that while I enjoyed how The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress started, I have found it increasingly dry, so much so that I may soon give it up and find a better book.

What I’m doing at work: I’m writing release notes and multiple user guide updates, and managing a wide array of edits to a ~400-page business document. I keep thinking of Cal Newport’s book Deep Work because I have so much context-switching to do and feel I can hardly do a quality job on one given project.

Favorite articles of the week: Check out “We need more technical writing in popular culture” by Fabrizio Ferri Benedetti, whose tech writing blog I only just learned about.

Favorite quotes: This year’s CCCA Biola University Lenten devotional is bursting with inspiring artwork, songs, and poems which dramatize the New Testament gospels in some way. One poem which has stuck with me is “Staying Power” by Jeanne Murray Walker (which, as the devotional notes, was read “in appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International Convention of Atheists, 1929”):

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts
outside to the yard and question the sky,
longing to have the fight settled, thinking
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say

all right, it is improbable, all right, there
is no God. And then as if I’m focusing
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t there

that makes the emptiness flare like a forest fire
until I have to spend the afternoon dragging
the hose to put the smoldering thing out.
Even on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

tells me they’ve found melanoma,
complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire
again, which—though they say it doesn’t
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s
a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,
but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.

You don’t want to talk, so you pull out
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbery
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up

    and a voice you love whispers hello.

I broke when I read the last line. Maybe it’s because I see in it the profoundly-relatable irony of an enlightened modern wiping off the artificial residue of God and burying the fiction of His existence, only to be haunted repeatedly by His voice. It touches on something visceral and personal I have experienced: a longing to hear that Voice, which I once ran from and at the same time ached to know, and which broke through to me in moments I least expected and which I have now come to know at last. After reading it I thought of that simple yet powerful moment in the gospel of John:

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Mary hears the Voice of God speak her name in an act of intimate love. That’s it. That’s all she needs to have her eyes opened and be made whole again. She has found the One she loves; or rather the One who loves her has found her, and she recognizes him; and her sorrow turns into joy.