Death took me by the hand in an entrancing fashion and led me down a boulevard turned alleyway. I would have never expected it. Beat up by a bully, I was too blind to actually see. Beat up by my own broken hands. How would they ever shape themselves to praise again? Clenched fists and middle fingers never get praised from the pulpit. Upwardly raised palms are preferred, but this year the only time my palms were raised to the sky were as I cowered on the ground begging for mercy. “I cannot take another blow”.
I am not a victim this year. As I author my autobiography it is too tempting to cast myself as the victim, too superficial to cast myself as a hero, and too simple to cast myself as the villain. I have played all three and play all three poorly. If I were to leave another year of life (and in three hours I will), it would be with the understanding, I am profoundly human. I am not better or worse than others. I am just Tosin. Simple, Tosin. And, that it wholly okay.
I am no Peter. Nevertheless, something within me resonates with the humility he found in failing God, himself, and his community. I never thought I would know about it; I don’t wish that others would. It is lethal.
I wanted to run from the face of God. The fear Israel must have felt was guttural, living with laws knowing failure was imminent. YHWH sees all and knows all. Sounds like something from 1984. How does someone sinful come before a Holy God? To know the character of God was a help. To know “The Lord. The Lord. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast compassion”. To know, ten years after my salvation, God knew I would fail. “My God. My God, why have I forsaken Thee? Why hast Thou took me once more?” I don’t understand God. I am okay with it. I am learning to be okay being forgiven without the expense of being forsaken, even though all I want to do is self-flagellate. God keeps grabbing whips out of my hand. “There has been enough bloodshed. I don’t need yours.”
Failing myself dismantled me. As my heart grew hard, a mallet came down and exploded it into fragmentations. I was dissociative. My body didn’t feel like mine. Writhing felt normal; breathing felt hostile. My face was not mine. My soul was not mine. They were for hire and would cash out at whatever made me feel good. Standards, I set for myself dismantled in a moment. I was a worm hoping to be crushed underfoot. Many a Saturday night, I spent weeping and wheezing hoping God would have mercy and dismiss me from these moments–either temporarily or permanently. Five months later, I still don’t know who I am. There are fragments, that will never fit again and some that will fit awkwardly. I am here. I am alive. I believe that is reason enough to rejoice.
The church has hurt me. The church has healed me. I cannot hate the church for they have loved me. I could not imagine the sorrow a once proud Peter felt returning to the 10 others who knew. They had all heard of his denial. They made it safe for him when casting him out would be more appropriate. I have taken the bread and the wine many times. Never in such significant ways as this year. What follows is an excerpt from my personal journal:
The bread and the wine had never tasted as sweet as yesterday. There was no change in the quality of the meal. Rather it was the posture in which it was received. There is a special humility in confession. It is the humility that despite failure, I am still a part of the body. Despite my deserved amputation and my attempts to self-amputate, broken bread and crushed wine restore me to God and others as well.
Communion is not just a dull common meal, but a weekly grace. I imagine the best fish Peter had was when Christ restored him too.
I have no words for the way The Body has bandaged my wounds, changed the dressing, poured the salve. I am still broken, but far less than I would have been on my own. I’m in despair, but not depression. At times, I feel disregarded but never thrown away.
He comes for me. He heard my weeping in the alleyway. As I plead for mercy I don’t deserve, He gives it. As I tremble, disoriented from the setting and the beating, He grabs my hand and sits beside.