Was Ever Joy Like Mine?

Traditions are funny. Often, whenever I try to force their creation, they fight back at me; however, sometimes, when I am not even trying to create one, it just happens.

This is exactly how my yearly reading of George Herbert’s lengthy yet poignant poem “The Sacrifice” came about. I read it once and then found myself reading it again as Easter approached. Now it’s my own poetry tradition!

As Spring shows her glad face and Easter approaches, I look forward to its familiar lines and my notes scribbled in the many margins. The depth contained in such tight stanzas still shocks me afresh every time. The repeated line in each stanza, “Was ever grief like mine?” continually invites the reader into the agony Christ endured to offer us access back to His agape love.

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Oh all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?…

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! What have I stolen from you: death:
Was ever grief like mine?”

After reading it last night, I found myself feeling stuck in the heaviness of the reality of the Cross and the cost that Christ paid for my redemption. I whispered to Jesus, “I am so sorry.” And he seemed to reply, “I’m not.”

Christ, who was once in agony, is now in ecstasy. His grief has been turned to joy. Redemption is accomplished. Christ resurrected. His children are coming to His embrace. These realities led me to want to write an accompanying poem to be paired with Herbert’s “The Sacrifice.”

The Relief

I heard her sobbing, shaking with grief,
She who from demons had found relief,
“I’m no gardener; I’m death’s chief!”
Was ever joy like mine?

I felt desperate hands clutching me in fear,
Shocked to see Rabboni again so near,
“Don’t cling; go call the others, my dear!”
Was ever joy like mine?

I found them locked in an upper room,
Huddled in confusion, mixing hope with gloom,
“Locked doors are no matter; let’s resume!”
Was ever joy like mine?

My tender Thomas was not within
Yet I heard his doubts, the honest Twin.
I offered my hands his heart to win.
Was ever joy like mine?

Walking at daybreak on a familiar shore,
Peter fled the boat like the time before.
Being led by an impulse he couldn’t ignore.
Was ever joy like mine?

I embraced him in a wet and welcome hug,
But his three offenses at his heart did tug.
Thrice I forgave what he struggled to shrug.
Was ever joy like mine?

We breakfasted over a charcoal fire,
A second chance to do his heart’s desire.
A shepherd’s calling he did acquire.
Was ever joy like mine?

I watched him shed a thousand pounds,
As I swallowed up the failure that hounds.
I welcomed him into grace that abounds.
Was ever joy like mine?

Forty glorious days with my friends,
Speaking of the kingdom that now extends,
Offering them living hope that transcends.
Was ever joy like mine?

I spoke of the Helper I promised to send,
The One who’d be with them until the end;
No better comfort could I recommend.
Was ever joy like mine?

With the Father, I watched from on high
As the Promised Spirit to them drew nigh,
And as they learned how on Him to rely!
Was ever joy like mine?

At the Father’s right hand, I still intercede;
For each of my children I gladly plead
Until with me, they will feel no need!
Was ever joy like mine?

What manner of love is this would walk through agony to gladly invite us into the agape love of the Trinity? Was ever a joy like ours?

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