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My Confession

April 13, 2013

How do I undo the damage I have done?
How do I undo the damage I have done?
How do I undo the damage I have done?
How do I undo the damage I have done?
(from “Damage I’ve Done” by The Heads with Johnette Napolitano)

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a confession of murder.

It came after a number of other confessions. Richard II confessed bafflement at his imprisonment. Is there a way for him to understand how he has gotten where he is? Is it something he has done, or is it something that has been done to him?

Shylock confessed too. He has been abused and abused and abused, and finally he is pissed off, and he wants revenge. And why not? But Portia confessed too. She confessed (and he confessed) that mercy and grace would make us godlike, but that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation. God help us all.

Prologue also confessed, that the world is full of adventure, which we’ve been granted (graced?) to access with our imaginations. Prologue confessed with joy, knowing that the horses he’ll never ride behind bars are his to ride in himself.

In another prison, at another time, I’ve heard Juliet confess. He had been a white supremacist. He observed the mayhem of Act 3, scene 1, leaving two young men dead, done in by rage and rashness. He had been in such mayhem and had committed murder. He became Juliet because he had grown to hate himself as he had been. Juliet would mentor him into understanding what love is.

And I heard the confession of murder. He had just joined this cast of humanity, and after Richard II, Shylock, Portia, Prologue, Hamlet, Richard III, and a bunch of noble kinsmen (a brilliant moment), this man put his heart on the line. He had a wife and children. He had a business. He was motivated. And because he believed his business was threatened, he killed those who threatened it. And so he lost everything. This was the first time he admitted this publicly to this group of characters. I don’t know his name, but I suspect he might become another Hamlet. One day he may see that there is a divinity which shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will. But he might also be Lear, who will learn know what wretches feel, shake the superflux of blessing to them, and show the heavens to be just.

And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
(from “Hurt,” performed by Johnny Cash)

In 1 Corinthians 4:9, Paul tells us that our lives can be a theatre, a spectacle, to the angels. They watch us, wondering what will be the narrative of our lives in interaction with God. I get the sense that it is possible that we can thrill the angels, even though we are fools.

My emotions have been on the edge lately, and in the past two days I have wept thinking about the waste we can make of our lives, the damages small and large that we can do and cannot undo, that Hamlet can be magnificent, and devastating, and devastated. I know that I am guilty of everyone of the seven deadly sins. And I want to confess beauty as well: the splendid joy of comedy and of love, the chance to witness divinity shaping our world and our ends, the chance to see a white supremacist become a Juliet and gang members ride their really imaginary horses with a new band of brothers, and that we need not be condemned into the course of justice but that we may be condemned into everlasting redemption. If I cannot undo the damage I have done, I confess amazing grace, a sweet sound, which saved a wretch like me.

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