I’m an Absolute Clod.

by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807

The Clod and the Pebble
“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake (1757 – 1827)
I announced at a meal with friends last evening that I was a dirt clod. They love me, so as expected they objected. I asked them, “Well, would it be better to be a pebble in a brook? Which would you rather be?” The expected answer. I asked, “Why a pebble?” I was answered, “Well, a pebble in a beautiful brook with the clean water flowing over me would be much better than a hunk of dirt.”This was the lead-in I hoped for because I wanted to read for them a poem I’d never come across before, one that sang out my own feelings and beliefs on love. I’d never come across it before because I always assumed Blake, Shelly, Keats, Wordsworth, and all the other English Romantic poets to be a bit inaccessible, and I find forced Romanticism to be rather offputting. Even works of the great Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire, which I desired to read, while beautiful and the fodder for many a lovely heart-capturing tune, was still, beyond the dialect struggles, difficult and a bit unrelatable. Assumptions make for bad outcomes for you and for some fellow by the family name of Umption. I’m not going to run out and buy a tome; I really have to much to read on my list for the next three lifetimes, but I will be more open to the experience by happenstance and serendipity.

Blake’s “And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.” measures well against my top standard as it seems a phrase I would expect from C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or the lyric giftings of Andrew Peterson.

This particular serendipity occurred as I traveled to that lovely meal shared with friends. I was again listening to what I am certain is the absolute best book on understanding true covenantal and joyful marriage I’ve ever found, and I doubt the like of my ever finding one better. A recent discovery, I’m on my fourth listen and still finding little precious gems. My physical copy of “The Meaning of Marriage” by pastor Timothy Keller will join books by Lewis, Eggerichs, and Kreeft in a place of honor upon my bookshelf once I’m done filling it’s margins with annotations from the heart.

Keller throughout illustrates that the covenant of Marriage as prescribed by God; love through companionship, service, and self-sacrifice, bears precious little resemblance to the postmodern social-humanist me-centred marriage that is so pervasive today. One would expect that God need not check the box labeled, “Substitutions not permitted.” or “Dispense as prescribed.”

Truly, it seems that throughout history, mankind, even the Israelites, God’s Chosen People, have chosen designs that deviate greatly in critical respects and suffer greatly for the deviation. When Christ clarifies that the adultery of the Ten Commandments takes place in the heart, mind, and eyes as much as in the bedroom; when He rebukes the religious leaders arguing over divorce telling them that God granted divorce to them only due to the hardness of their hearts we doubt not that the curse on relationship that fell upon us through Adam and Eve was doing its painful work then amongst the Isrealites as terribly as it does for all of us today.

A fallen world produces only highly imperfect replicas of the archetype. Understanding the archetype helps to shore up weaknesses, correct transcription errors, and repair imperfections one pair of hearts at a time, and I think that is what Keller has done here in providing such understanding. He discusses and then sweeps away the world’s rubbish and then expounds upon and makes accessible and understandable… and most importantly, desirable God’s greatest gift and blessing to His children available, to us this side of heaven. He shines ray of bright light dazzling The Shadowlands. He teaches the only method capable of building a Heaven in Hell’s despair.

I am a clod. A joyful clod of clay in full awareness of God’s blessings, not a pebble lulled by the endless mindless tuneless music of the rill passing over me, bombarded by beauty, lessening appreciation until I value it not.

This view of marriage and ourselves is somewhat allegorical of God’s love for us. We clods of clay don’t merit a second glance.

  • I am The Stone the Builders Rejected – Psalm 118:22
  • I am the Lost Sheep that would have been far easier to abandon. – Luke 15:1-7
  • I am the Prodigal Son rebellious yet beaten, all conceivable worth removed before being redeemed. – Luke 15:11-32
  • I am the clay in the Potter’s hands – Jeremiah 18:1-6
  • I am the Widow of no station, ostracized as a woman of foreign descent made valuable by my Kinsman Redeemer. – Ruth 1-4
  • I am the Lost Coin. – Luke 15:8-10

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