Above me sparrows chirp,
they chirp like sirens
Hoping to get your attention
What do they say?
God, how can I pray
As fervent and fearless as they?
I can hear my grandma saying,
“One offense is all it takes,
For the stony ancestors to sweep us with hurricanes.”
And it did rain.
It rained for days and days,
The waters flooded to our waists,
Until my father’s brown car
And my mother’s golden dowry were swallowed in haste.
– Or at least, that’s what she said.
“You see, the red statues will not hesitate.”
I wish to ignore her, to overlook that ancient coldness
But to be warm, You know that I lack the boldness –
Something wouldn’t let me
The time, it was not yet ready.
Until the waters sedated and settled low
All things covered were shown
Then I woke from a slumber
I thought, I was surely ready for eternity, though –
But this weight never does go away,
With every Song I sing it detaches, but still remains
It remains –
I can’t help but wonder, what if you are the same?
As the night grows older
I feel it looming behind my shoulders
Your echoing I cares
They’re leaving me like your breaths leaving my interior
Are you not worth more than sparrows? they whisper,
But how can they in the sky deliver to you their sounds
While now, mine seems only to sink deeper underground?
I have to ask –
Do you care as much about me
As you care about them?
The sparrows, the grey and amber sparrows
Whom you colored and livened with your words.
Or the lilies, the gloriously arrayed flowers,
Into the grasses they so easily merge but do not disappear.
Do you adore me just as much?
But how much does it take you to do as such?
Cleansing me with your blood,
Hearing my heartbeat from under the suffocating mud.
There was my fearful hand,
You held it with yours.
So that the wind, Job’s whirlwind,
And fire, Moses’ bushfire,
Help me stand again in your promised land.
Gently, but with your gentle force,
Bless my spirit and yours –
they shall never ever drift to divorce –
Draw me in, please
Draw in my family
That heat can’t be warmer,
You say, this is my daughter,
With whom I am well-pleased.
I’ve been waiting so long, and finally
To live forever in your stable sanctuary –
After I became a Christian, I did not have all my fears reduced and resolved. In fact, in a sense, I have single-handedly divorced a part of myself that seemingly secured me–my ancestry, my goals for living, my source of explanations. Sometimes, I still wonder about to whom I am praying, who is responding to me, and which “god” people see through me. My inherent fears about destiny, about natural disasters, about inevitable cycles, about divorces and fracturing of relationships, about the arbitrary cruelness of the universe, about being isolated and neglected, were still very much deeply rooted inside, even after those rejuvenating waters of baptism had washed over me. I have realized that as ready as I am for eternity, between then and now still exists a long period of time–my life. And in this life, I still fear being unpolished, unnoticed, unheard, unloved, probably just as much as anybody.
But our God is unique in that He is not a distant God who expects us to somehow achieve perfection; He is the one who guides. I have begun to realize that this hollow part within me is destined to be fulfilled by our Maker, who polishes, notices, hears, and loves us. I am not yet a fearless person, but I have decided that I will not live life in my way, or with any other “gods”–I can only do it with the God whose steady hand patiently holds onto mine, while His perfection overwhelms my weakness.
Originally published in The Williams Telos Issue 14, FEAR
Written by Catherine Chen ’23