26 January 2017

Mother of Amnon: My Son, my Son

2. Samuel 13:1-32

My son, my son,
what have you done?
My son, what have you become?
Have I taught you nothing?
Has my love meant nothing?
How can I still look at you
after this?

Where is my sweet, sensitive boy?
Where has he gone?
Who is this selfish, brutal man?
What have you done?
Have I taught you nothing?
Who are you now?

Don't you see
the pain you're causing me,
digging claws into my heart,
tearing it apart?
Don't you have a mother?
Don't you have sisters?
Did I not teach you
love and respect?
Where did you learn
this violence, this greed,
this cruelty?
Not from me.

I want to beat you bloody.
I wish you weren't mine.
I want to cast you out
far from my sight.
My son, my son,
what have you done?
How could you do this?

And yet
you are my son,
my sweet, sensitive boy -
somehow, somewhere
that child is still there.
How I wish he could come out,
set himself free
from the blindness of self,
the chains of lust and greed.
How I wish
your evil deeds could fall away
to uncover the true you
buried beneath.

I want to beat you bloody.
I want to love you back to health.
I wish you weren't mine.
But how can a mother
forget her child?

You are not
what you have done.
I hate your deed
but I love my son.
I love you
and it hurts.
I love you
with the shattered pieces of my heart.
I want to love you back to health,
love you out from the depths of your dungeon,
love the selfish, brutal man
into my sweet, sensitive child again.
My son.


[26. January 2017]

For some reason 2. Sam 13 is one of my most-written-about Bible texts (Tamar 1, Tamar 2, Tamar Absalom's daughter)... and I'm still planning on writing a fifth poem for it, from the p.o.v. of Tamar's mother.

Amnon's mother is Ahinoam of Jezreel (2. Sam 3:2). I realised it would be interesting to consider this story, of his rape of half-sister Tamar, from his mother's point of view.

While writing this I realised that, despite the way it has been misused and therefore fallen into disrepute, we still need the phrase, "love the sinner, hate the sin". We just need to understand it correctly. I find the phrase has been badly overused and misused in the context of discussions about homosexuality, and is almost only associated with such discussions. The way I first heard it, though, it meant something completely different. To me, "love the sinner, hate the sin" means differentiating between the deed and the person, acknowledging that something someone has done (e.g. in this case rape) is wrong (also for the sake of standing up for the victim), but still caring for the person and wanting them free. I believe we have really watered down this important message by associating it with a "sin" as negligible as homosexuality (I don't actually think it is one, but that's another fight I've already had too much of).

What someone has done does not have to "define" him as a person. I guess no one knows this better than a parent. That's why the Bible works with father and mother imagery to describe the love of God. God as a parent sees not only what we have done, but sees the trapped child beneath. And grace means we don't have to be what we have done, we don't have to be trapped, we aren't doomed to repeat our mistakes, there is a chance to change and to be free.

We need to "hate sin" in the sense that we need to stand up against injustice, cry out against rape and abuse of all kinds.
And we need to "hate sin" in the sense that we want the person imprisoned by it to come free and find their true self again, which was created for goodness, not for evil.
But we need to see the person as not defined by what he/she has done. And no one does that better than a loving parent, I think.
To me, that is what "love the sinner, hate the sin" should mean. It should be about standing up for victims and at the same time recognising the humanity of the perpetrator and giving him/her a chance to change.
I think one reason it's so dangerous to talk about "hating sin" mainly in the context of homosexuality is that we lose all credibility when we want to talk against real sin, or - even worse - ignore the real sin, which in my understanding of the Bible is abuse of others, especially the weak, failure to help the weak, oppression of others, and injustice of all kinds. Read the prophets: all about social justice.

Picture by K├Ąthe Kollwitz, "Woman with Dead Child".

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