Tired of Speaking Sweetly (by Hafiz)
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
It’s one of my favorite poems, “Tired of Speaking Sweetly” by Hafiz. A poem with striking images reminding us about how essential and important it is to get rid of all our erroneous beliefs about and distorted images of God so that with God’s help we will come to, “know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
We can choose to believe in a God of Love or a God of Wrath and can prove either through the use of Scripture. I chose love. We can pick and choose our passages and prove just about anything we want to. But I’m not interested in proving anything anymore. I’m interested in living in love. I’ve lived in fear long enough and I know what that is like. I know the arguments and the many of the passages that argue for a God of Wrath. But in my heart and soul, and through my life experiences and studies I come back to three simple and profound words that “work” for me. “God is love.”
I have chosen and I am committed to seeing God through the lense of love. I am committed to interpreting Scripture through 3 lenses that are vital to me:
- God is love. (1 John 4:8)
- Jesus is the friend of sinners. (Matthew – John)
- We are chosen in love before the creation of the world. (Eph. 1:4)
Perhaps I owe all of this to the Pietistic tradition in which I was raised, which taught me early and demonstrated often Covenant pietism and how a love relationship with God is our essential privilege reflected in the question, “Is your heart warmed by the love of Christ.” Thank you Church of my childhood!
I believe that God is holy and wholly love. Love is not just a characteristic, an attribute or a quality but the essential nature of God.
But sometimes we are fascinated with or more concerned about divine wrath rather than divine love. What do we do with all those wrathful verses? For example, John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” If we start from the premise of wrath, this makes sense. If I start from the premise of love, it doesn’t make sense. I read all of Scripture through the “smell test” of love.
The paraphrase from the Message gives me a hint at what is going on in this verse. “That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”
Perhaps wrath is not a characteristic of God, but only something that we experience and label as the “wrath of God” as a phrase to try to explain it? (As John is commenting and trying to explain it in his own words.) Perhaps wrath is something we experience when we walk in darkness rather than the light. Or when we choose death over life (Deut. 32)?
“Just as God has organized life to support my full becoming, God has also organized life to oppose those things that hinder my becoming. When I encounter this opposition it hurts. It feels as if life is angry with me. But the hurt I feel is the sign of love. It is the reminder that God wants only what is good and life-giving in my life. Therefore, God has organized the universe in such a way that I will inevitably, even if I do not recognize it, experience pain when I choose to live outside of love.”
But even in this “angry darkness,” pain is calling us back to love. “It is the pain of living that creates a hunger for healing that only God can satisfy.” Love is calling me back always and in all ways. But if I see any pain in life through the lense of God’s love then even that pain can draw me back to God. God’s love, even in our experience of wrath, is calling and wooing.
Love will not be forced. Love can be chosen. Therein lies our experience of misery (lives of wrath) or joy.
“The pain I experience when I choose to live according to death, is always the voice of Love calling me to come back to my true self. “Wrath” is the demonstration of the Love who yearns so deeply to be known that it refuses to shelter me from the consequences of my deadly choices.”
It’s about God’s love always, not God’s wrath. If it is about my belief, or my faith or my obedience, I have no hope. For I don’t have enough faith – “God, I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) And my obedience or good deeds are like filthy rags (Is 64:6).
If God is not pure love. If Jesus was not the friend of sinners. If I was not chosen in love before the world began then the language of God punishing me in wrath makes sense and I am doomed in this life and the next.
If I fail to start from the premise of love I will never feel safe in relationship with God for God becomes a divine child abuser who killed Jesus and cannot be totally trusted and who also punishes all his children who fail in faith and obedience.
Wrath repels. And even the notion of a wrathful God pushes me further away from God. But love attracts and draws to itself (John 12:32). It is the radical message of love that sparks my curiosity and draws me closer to explore.
So is there anything that God is angry or wrathful about? Herein, we go back to the poem by Hafiz and I would say it this way. The only thing God hates, is wrathful or angry about is anything that prevents us from knowing and living in God’s love (including the thought that God is wrathful) and sharing that love with others and experiencing it even for ourselves.
Turning Hafiz’s words into my own prayer.
God, reach into my mind, spirit and soul
and knock out all of the nonsense I believe about you.
Drag it out. Rip it out. All that saps my joy.
All the nonsense and the fear
that has made me miserable
and caused me to weep.
Drop kick it out of me
all the thoughts that prevent me from seeing you.
Or make me afraid of you.
Hold me upside down
Shake out all the nonsense
that you are anything but love.
I’m not interested in arguing or even in speaking sweetly about it anymore. I’ve made up my mind and I stake my life in this world and the next on God’s love. And to live beloving the God who is belovoing me. (Even in my faithlessness and filthy rags though I desire better.)
You may argue for and have your God of Wrath and the life that mirrors that belief and all the fear that goes with it. I, will simply live in relationship with the God of love with nothing to prove, fear, hide or lose.
Call me crazy.
Call me a heretic.
Call me uninformed, simple or unbiblical.
But I choose to place my trust in the God of Love that Jesus came to show and the Spirit helps me to know. Eph. .3:16-19