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

Leave a Reply