There are wounds and there are wounds. Some you can live with. Others forever change your life. Some heal. Others never do. Some have a didactic benefit. A boy who thinks he can parachute off the roof of his house by holding the corners of a bedsheet over his head can thank the teaching of a throbbing ankle for the lesson as to why this is not a good idea. Others, however, seem to have no discernible benefit at all. There is pain. Then there is living in pain. The lonely parents standing over the empty bassinet surely have a sense that however many children follow after, that empty space will not be filled.
It is just those wounds, the injuries of the heart, that so often seem so pointless.
The young boy trails after the aged patriarch, knowing his own lack and softness, yet eager to prove his strength and ability. They are setting fence today, and his will be the task to drive the stake, after which they will hook the barbed wire. He feels the old man’s stare on his back as he takes a whack or two with the fence post driver. That stake is barely lower in the ground. “Go on,” the old man yells, “whack it good!” Sweating less from the heat than from his desperation, the boy gives it further efforts. All of them ineffectual. Finally, he is pushed out of the way. “You’re as awkward as a cub bear playing with his dick!” The man grabs the driver and with one hand and two swift strikes, the stake is driven. Right through the young boy’s heart.
The newlyweds lay side by side in the night. A fan does little more than stir the damp heat. The young bride’s low voice is disdainful. Should’s and ought’s and if’s evaluate and measure out his masculine capacity. He is found wanting. Was it so long ago that he had had images in his mind of heroic rescue, the rider holding out his hand and drawing up the faltering maiden? But they dissipated under judgment and failure. Here he was again, still and silent in the night, hearing the declaration. “You’re a coward.” He continues wordless, lying still and tearless in the silver light, the quiet sobs of a contemptuous spouse withering his heart.
What is the point of such things? What sutures are there for such injuries? Forever after marked and stunted, the boy will cautiously guard all that is his, never knowing for sure if he has what it takes. He will seek validation, but never bring anything to completion, fearing the validation. The young bridegroom will ever after withdraw, seeking nothing more than daily survival. If he avoids the cutting, he will have successfully navigated the day. Never finishing, ever withdrawing, these will repeatedly ensure they do not receive what they seek. They guarantee themselves stones and serpents, rather than bread and fish.
Still, against all hope, beggaring all belief, the boy and the young man will cock an attentive ear and hear a story. A story of a fearful and mendacious man on the cusp of facing the brother he has wronged, presuming in that encounter his own demise. This man, having seen all that he loves leave him, stands alone by the brook and confronts power and strength he cannot master. Still, the long years have stored up many wounds and an excess of pain. He has made fateful and foolish choices and wrecked his home. The woman he loves most is the one kept from him, because he was afraid and thought he must protect himself. His wages for this beautiful woman are now long years and senseless struggle. As he grapples with this power by the brook, he fails to discern his own good. There are, after all, painful energies empowering him, and a desperation. He wrestles and fails yet again to overcome. Just as it seems he always has. Worse, he is once again wounded.
Yet somehow, in his pain and anguish, his anger and fear, he is able to wrest what he fears he may never truly receive. He receives a blessing. And a new name. But under the dawning sun he limps. Always he will limp.