What does judgment say? What mercy? Will He look on me with compassion or declare that I knew what I knew, knew what was wanted, needed, expected and failed to deliver it -- failed in spite of being given advantage after advantage -- intelligence, support, examples?
I almost don't know which to hope for. Compassion seems too weak, forgiving that which merits condemnation. It's not how I would, do, rule me. The heart searches out justice, right for right until the balance is made level and there rests, irrespective of the fear. And the fear is muted because the heart cannot really conceive of the judgment merited by sin. Not really. If it could, it would eschew the balance and beg for mercy. It would plead with the judge to look with compassion and mete out not what is deserved, but something lesser -- and greater. Which the Judge will do.
But wait. Is it only for those who seek it, this mercy? For those who render it. Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. To whom am I more in debt than to myself? Fifty pounds, fifty years. It cannot be repaid, can only be forgive, relinquished, if at all. Nothing can be repaid, because time does run in one direction only. But can what was lost or what should have been nevertheless be restored? Can it be? Not patched, or the patch will tear.
Maybe it's patching that I do, can do. And then I pour in and watch again and again as the wine I want to ripen expands and splits the seams and spills and stains and is lost but for the memory of the harvest and the crushing and the straining and the pouring, never drunk. And what splits and spills is a feint compared with what might have been, too thick, too sweet, too immature to serve at the feast.
It is I who need to mature, and will I ever? For ages I thought I had, long before I'd even begun. And still, the chief impediment to aging well seems to be the idea that I already have. Hastening leads only to some false idea of having arrived. Tents pitched not in the promised land but on the side of a side road.
The journey is not yet over. We must pack up and continue on. But sick as we may be of quail and manna, they are reliable and the sun is hot and we can still sit in the shade of the tent and dream of the Egypt we left behind when we set out into the desert. And we have not turned to salt for looking back, not entirely, not yet.
Milk and honey -- who can imagine them who has not tasted them? And even if we have, the memory fades, being more subtle than the memory of fleshpots. Even with pillars, not to mark the immovable place of sacrifice, but leading, guiding, by day and by night. It should have been enough. Can it be still?
Close your eyes. See the cloud and the fire. But only ahead. You may die in the desert, but die following, your tent on your back, packed and prepared to journey one more day, even if that day never comes. Your children, they at least, may yet enter into the promised land.