Dear Master Teacher,
Thank you for the passing grade. I cannot honestly comprehend the “why” of it, but I do accept it with utmost gratitude, and I have already enrolled in all of the classes that I can currently see in the catalog. There are more, I know, but for some reason, I cannot see some of them clearly.
I admit (confess? divulge knowledge of the fact? own up to?) that I am a part-time student at best, and an even smaller part is part-time learner. But today was a full school day and I did not skip a single class. I learned so much today about the power of words and images and honor and trust and faithfulness to your ways and following your lead and listening and just simply dealing with it all and owning every last bit of my part of it. It’s been a really good day in that respect.
And I do, I own my muck. It is certainly not the muck of anyone else. If it were it wouldn’t smell so good! Ha, I am joking. You know, because some of the best jokes have come from you, AND THEY ARE ALL MY FRIENDS ha ha. Oh, I am on a roll.
Seriously, I want to learn so much. Teach? Sure I can. It is a gift you have given me, what you are teaching me, but I am asking you to teach me how to be a part-time teacher and a full-time learner. You know I am willing, and right now when I am not around any of my jokes—focus!—I am asking you to teach it to me, show it to me, reveal it to me, and open me up inside to learn it. I am asking you to bring it, and I will receive it. Please.
Thank you for this morning in the before-school hours when you, in your own way, brought an image to me and then gave it words. You are the master of mystery and I like it, like it, love it about you.
[Oh, while I am thinking of it, help me to love more. In certain ways I don’t know how I can, such is the depth of what I know of my love, but you always find a marvelous way to do it, and you certainly will. Then I will simply love more and be amazed that it was possible, and then be grateful that it is true that I do.]
Back to the image and words: I was actually on the MAX train and on my way to one of my classes when suddenly I could see that cross, the one where my Mentor was murdered. You allowed it to happen, that death, so that we could all pass, but I cannot really dwell on the “why” of any of that. Lots of questions there about that.
But I saw him on the cross and then my eyes were drawn down to the foot of the cross, as well as to either side. I thought about the song “Kneel at the Cross” and the phrase “lay it at the cross” and some other songs and phrases that we often sing, sometimes without very much thought, I think.
Teacher, my dear Teacher, there is a pool of blood at the foot of that cross! It is not small; it has spread on the trampled, bare earth, and has coagulated slightly and it has blended with some of the dirt and some shavings of wood from earlier when the torturers used their swords to hack the corners at the base of the post so that it would fall down into the hole. They wanted it to drop, I know, not slowly but abruptly, so that my Mentor (may his name forever be clothed in majesty) would feel the tear of his flesh as the post hit bottom, grinding against the layers of soil deeper and deeper until it pounded into bedrock. Already he was bleeding from the gashes in his back, and his lifeblood flowed out of him forming that pool, and the flow did not stop. When they pierced his side, it fairly gushed down the post, pouring and drizzling and dripping down the wood to the base, where tree and earth meet. That is where the pool is, where my eyes are fixed now. No, I will not kneel there Teacher. And when I do cast my metaphorical burdens there and all my real failures and yes, I will call them sins, I will now understand that they are being thrown into a pool of blood and excrement and anything else that can flow from a human body, a man’s body when it dies. It is all there at the foot of the cross.
But, Teacher, you showed me more. You drew my eyes to either side, first to my left (his right). There below his outstretched arms, directly under the base of the palm of his hand, near his wrist where it is pierced by that spike, is another small pool. It is not a nail that has pierced him; it is a metal stake, almost the size of a railroad spike and its end has been hammered into the wood before. I can see the metal of it spreading and cracking from so many blows. The pool below it is blood only, and it has dripped steadily and has formed a puddle that seems to have settled on top of the soil. I look to the right, and it is much the same. These two pools are pure, and they’ve come from the wounds of his outstretched hands as an offering, not from an anguished cry.
Then I see another image, and it is from above, somehow. Teacher, you amaze me the way that you can get me to see, sometimes, from a place I am not. Teach me how to do that for others when I am ready, please. But here, you have allowed me to see the pools from above and they are there after the cross is gone, and after they have buried my Mentor, and after the crowd has disappeared, and after the murderers have gone home, some to their families, satisfied after a day’s work.
Those three pools are still there and they form an ellipsis, Teacher, your sign to me that it is forever, never beginning and without end, and a sign that much will happen in those spaces between.
Thank you, Teacher, for all of the lessons of today, and please help me as I study and listen and learn. That passing grade that you hand out every term in advance? I do not take it lightly. You know that already, but I needed to say it. I have much to learn, so allow me to teach part-time, please do allow that, but make me into a full-time learner.
I look forward to seeing you in class tomorrow.
(Third row back, first seat on the left aisle (your right) in case you . . . nevermind. Of course, you remember).
P.S. I’ve played this before for other things, but if possible (all things are) may I have this music played at my graduation when I proceed into the next degree program? Thank you in advance.
Photograph “Imago Discipulus” © 2018 Timothy Waugh