The Chalkboard

” The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.” Psa 9:6

The importance of memory has been percolating in my mind as I face off with the darkness around me, and as I face off against that dark consuming flame which licked the sky in Basra. Memory works like a flood, and justice like a mighty flowing River, to sweep away the evil of our past and present, and to renew the mind and the face of the earth.

I don’t know exactly how it came to me, except to say that I needed the idea desperately. The recurring nightmares of betrayal and mocking derision have been haunting me for over 24 years, and have become progressively worse as I’ve lived in Meshech, among the tens of Kedar.

The incessant screaming of a woman who has hated me since she enticed me to bed has me wincing day after day. My thoughts are like dust swirled into a choking frenzied funnel, and my ears reverberate with cacaphonied accusation.

All of this would have left me to despair had not my Muse, my Heavenly Muse, given me a precious gift: a chalkboard.

A chalkboard is wonderful tool. You can draw whatever you like on it and erase what you draw, and draw something different. It’s an antiphonal device, allowing counter thought to wipe out thought. By the chalkboard, I embrace the Scripture’s message to think on noble things, and to put my delight solely in those “excellent ones.”

In order to do this, I must embrace the Scripture’s call to despise the vile (Psa 15), am to recognize that “the tongue of the wise is choice silver; the heart of the fool of little value,” and am to “let the dead bury the dead.” We must, as Paul says, “have nothing to do with them.” We must participate in God’s work to erase them from our lives, so that we may “serve Him without fear.”

Being made from nothing, we are all nothing in ourselves. Therefore, those who turn away from God, return to nothing, and must be accounted as nothing. This is as good and right as accounting ourselves dead to sin. Let the dead bury the dead, and clear your chalkboard to ponder what is good, what is true, what is noble, what is pure…

When I hear her screaming vitriol, I can sketch the shape of it as an explosion of sound and fury. Then I can embrace that it signifies nothing…by erasing it.

In it’s place, I begin to trace the lines and colors of the living room of my childhood home. Bright-gold sunshine suffuses the room, painting it with a palette of colors. The walls and ceiling are mottled with dancing shadows, which alternately fade and reappear, their edges fringed with the light, as dew glistens on the morning flower. And I can hear her song, brighter than the light itself, with joy unspeakable. How could such light have lived among darkness and been so clarion bright?

I leave this on the chalkboard, and ponder it in my heart, just as Mary of The Magnificat so often pondered and treasured things in her heart.

When I think of those cruel betrayers at the church, and what they did to my daughters, and hear the sickening and fetid- sweet words they utter from hearts as unfeeling as fat–words of charm that cover seven abominations– I draw those imposters as clowns. A clown behind the pulpit, and clowns in the pews. They wobble about like blind and spinning tops in a frenzied whirling dervish;

on a tilting, lilting floor;

in a leaning, tottering “church.”

It is a circus of grotesque contortions and absurd proportions– a sound and fury signifying nothing.

And I let it all collapse, chalk flying from the chalkboard until the sacred silence of dark green alone remains. I hear Isaiah’s words, “woe to the betrayer who is not yet betrayed.”

Wisdom’s hand touches mine, as She points to a few straggling marks remaining on the board. She lifts her right index finger to my lips: “Be still. The LORD will fight for you.” She lifts Her left index finger to these marks and deftly clears them. I turn to Her and see a smile spread across her face, as she tilts her head back with bubbling laughter. Wisdom always laughs fools to destruction.

She gently reapplies her assuaging right index finger to my lips, then lifts her left index finger, bringing it in front of Her mouth. She purses her lips as if to whistle, and blows the chalk dust away like chaff in the wind.

Suddenly all is suffused with light.  Wisdom’s crown of twelve stars illuminates the room, which is capacious.  The waltz from Sibelius’ Valse Triste begins to play.  Wisdom raises her right hand, placing light fingertips on my shoulder with her left. It is an invitation to dance, as of a royal mother to her son, and I respond in kind.  As we wheel about, every step is taken with great flourish. Tilting her head down and under my drooping gaze, She looks intently upward into my eyes to catch my brooding attention.  With the intense and provocative smile of one who goads out of gloom, She calls me out of my darkness.  The room whirls around us, but all that matters is Her intensely loving gaze and her captivating laughter.  And She dances me into the future…

When the waltz is ended, I begin to draw again, with my Helper gently guiding my faltering hand with Her own, while resting her other, with light fingertips, on my shoulder in soft assurance.

The adobe walls of a 4th century North African church rise from the misty green sea of the chalkboard, like emerging creation.

Light pours through windows, streaming in rivulets of golden rays, lapping the legs, arms, and serene faces of those who have come to learn and to transform their minds. The room is alternately muted dusk and streams of light glittered with starry specks of sunlit dust.

One rivulet of light trickles upon a lectern, where stands a humble man who wears the expression of a fellow sheep, and not a “shepherd.” His speech is simple and endearing, as one among others, who appeals to their knowledge as fellow stars in Wisdom’s crown

Augustine’s gentle cadence of speech invites and does not invade or provoke. One can hear the Masters voice in his voice: “come and see.” Come and see the wonders of the treasury of wisdom and knowledge in the Scriptures.

Come with me and we will go, while the light spreads out against the darkness like a fortified wall, and we are safe in our refuge, in the sanctifying truth which is the undistorted and pure Word.

And I let myself be transfixed by this vision, where song and light encircle and enfold the speaker and the hearers as one, as equal heirs of a kingdom of sojourners struggling together to add strength to strength on the narrow path to that city of light. All is well. All is well. Let darkness give way to growing, burgeoning light, til the full breaking of day.

The chalkboard is a very useful tool.

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