Love and Order

I spent a considerable part of my life picturing God in heaven with His arms crossed over His chest, waiting for me to mess up again. Do you see Him there too? Then maybe this free verse will resonate with you. 

The words come from the great “Thou Shalt Not” chapter of the Bible (Exodus 20:1-21, KJV & ESV) which makes this a work of appropriation. 

Literary appropriation is taking a recognizable text and recontextualizing it to make the reader re-examine their relationship to the original text. And that’s what I hope you do. But mostly I hope that you re-examine your relationship with the God behind this text.

Thou shalt not.
Thou shalt not.
Thou shalt not.
I bow down to serve that smoking mountain.
Thou shalt not.
And I do.

“Thou shalt not,” said holy thunder in heaven above,
“Your iniquity is witness against you
And I will not hold you guiltless.
Your work, your labor on earth beneath
Is: Thou shalt not!”

My God!
Do not speak to me
Lest I die.
Your words brought slavery,
The adultery of my fear.
I speak false love
But long hate.

In my land of Egypt,
I carved your image to murder your likeness.
Now, I take your holy name in vain
When I serve your commandments
And do not listen to you.

But jealous God,
You drew near and brought me out
Of the land of thick darkness
Where I, not you, stood far off.

“Do not fear ‘thou-shalt-not,’” you said.
“For I have made you holy
For my honor.”

Therefore, my God, I fear you
With the fear of steadfast love.

“Thou shalt not”
Is for me.
“Thou shalt not”
Is for us.
“Thou shalt not”
Is for love.

God spoke
And I rested.

Trish Kauffman lives in Western Europe and works with immigrants. Because of the nature of her work, she has chosen a pseudonym. She is energized by open conversations that point to Jesus. She also loves being part of a community, reading, touring out-of-the-way places, and organizing (as long as some spontaneity is in the mix). She used to think she liked language-learning until she started learning Arabic. For her, the hardest part about living away from home is leaving behind family.

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