WHEN YOU BLEED, I BLEED
From the Fall of 2017
I came to church today
When that great song played
Muscle memory signaled: Stand!
A heavy soul overruled that command
All around me, voices rose
Peripheral faces replaced by elbows
Joyous amens rang through the stands
Cheering, dancing, lifted hands
I sat thinking, “If I at least sing
Maybe no one will think anything”
I lengthened my torso, gulped in some air
But my throat seized up, silenced me there
Oh God, I thought. What will they think?
Here and there, a side-eye blink
Just join in, don’t make a scene
My body resisting, heart caught between
Is this not the place to bring all of me
To bear my soul? Well, technically
If you’re Sunday nice, if no one’s to blame
If doing so doesn’t ruin the game
Oh hell, I can’t stop it, I can not ignore
This chronic infection, eating my core
It’s always been there, probably from birth
This hateful attack on my life and self worth
The great song continues, claiming I’m free
But I’m restless yet still, surrounded yet lonely
I shouldn’t just sit here but I also can’t leave
So, while all around stand proud and agreed
I slip to the floor, I kneel down, I cry
Hot bitter tears, I start out with Why?
Then pray Truth will sustain me, expose all the lies
That the love of the cross will open our eyes
For a moment I did not know or care
How I looked, how they saw me there
But then I woke up, I began to witness
Uncomfortable shuffling, murmurs, hisses
A friend nearby bent over and questioned
“Why are you kneeling? How could you lessen
The win of the cross? This symbol, this token,
We stand for right now or God is heartbroken!
Men died for your freedom to worship, you know.
Don’t forget the great debt that you owe.”
I looked up, confused. What should I say?
I looked up and noticed them moving away
My row was now empty, I felt paralyzed
Hearing my family and I being criticized
“She hates our church! She’s such a distraction.”
“You dishonor our faith with your selfish action.”
“Our martyrs and preachers deserve more regard.”
“They’re making it up. They’re life’s not been that hard.”
“She’s so divisive. Excommunicate!”
“I’m disgusted by you. You ingrate.”
All around me, their voices rose
Unfriendly faces, threatening blows
With everyone standing, proud and agreed
The minister stepped in, taking the lead
“If you want our blessings, you cannot show
Disrespect for our cross. Find somewhere else to go.”
I looked to the cross. It stood under a flag.
All our righteousness, just a filthy rag.
Did I really come to church today?
I then saw a stranger coming my way
This outsider got close, leaned down and questioned
“What can I do? How I can lessen
The soul-crushing pain you’re trying to hold?”
The people now silenced by an action so bold
As he slipped to the ground, taking a knee
“You’re not alone anymore. When you bleed, I bleed.”
NOTES: I wrote this feeling disoriented by an outrage I couldn’t understand. I had once failed to stand for a patriotic song during a worship service and the backlash shocked me. How would Christ would respond to kneeling athletes? To what are we pledging our allegiance, exactly? At what cost? These are thoughts that webbed in my heart and then spilled out.