Right now in my English literature class we are reading some of the works from a writer named John Donne. I can admit that poetry doesn’t always grab me but there are some poems that catch me off guard. They strike me in ways that it’s hard to believe a poem can. Last Thursday we read one of John Donne’s poems and at first I didn’t like it because it made me uncomfortable. My friend loved it and so we talked about it after class. Then it wouldn’t leave me…all weekend long it was there. I have to write it out…..
“Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due.
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
John Donne ~ Holy Sonnets
This is a violent sonnet. The writer is basically asking God to be violent with him until God is everything to him.
Does it make you uncomfortable?
My professor compared the word “ravish” in the last line to the word “rape”.
I hate the word rape….I hate it for all it represents. I hate that it’s become slang in our culture and we use it as a joke. That word gives me shivers. I don’t understand how you can take a word that represents such torment and invasion of someone’s will and use it in your everyday humorous language. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Rape is a violent word. It represents becoming powerless and you will being overcome by someone.
Is this really what the writer means?
I read his words and I can feel his desperation for God to invade him. He doesn’t want his will to win even if it’s painful and it has to be broken.
I don’t understand this kind of desperation. If I were honest I would say that it scares me. I don’t know if I could say these words to God? I don’t know if I am desperate for him.
As I’ve been contemplating the state of not only my life but of our culture, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is for me to go through my day without depending on God at all. When I really need Him then I can depend on him but how often is that?
I am a blessed woman. I have food, I have shelter, I’m getting a great education and I have a family that loves me. I am not really in desperate need of anything and I don’t really want to be.
But the thing is that I want to be desperate for Jesus.
I want to love Him first; I want to know Him so much deeper than I do. I want Him to pour out of me and I want to say that I’m desperate for His presence. I want Him to invade my life but am I desperate for this? Maybe I’m scared of what that might mean? Maybe I’m not sure how to not just say it but to live it? I don’t just want to go through the motions of saying I need Him and saying that I love Him but not living in this reality.
And I don’t know where all of my questions and theological issues fit into all of this. How can you be desperate when there are so many things you don’t understand and when sometimes you’re honestly afraid to trust Him because you might get hurt?
I don’t know.
I don’t even know if I’m expected to have this desperation? Is it only for the few that can handle it? If I want to be desperate then am I just asking for hardship, and am I shallow if this makes me not want to ask for it?
I’m left somewhere in the middle of all this stuff, overcome with my shallow faith and my inadequateness.
And yet somehow His grace covers me,
even in this place.