Vasilij Surikov, “The Boyarynya Morozova”, 1887 (detail)
I am starving to death by not preaching. I search the garbage bins and pick out of dumpsters, ever eying with hungry eyes trash thrown by the wayside.
I am so wonderfully fed by Christ!
Yet I thirst a thirst of love. I long for more painful encounters that heal me so. I am a lover of the beach who roams the Sahara. Below the height of the mounting sun, among the singing dunes, I bellow with them the universal hum.
The sand is all about me. An oasis resides within my heart. I am surrounded by mirages of men whom long ago have forgotten to start.
I starve to preach. To sing of our Lord. I starve to fly high with no might of my own. Tapping toes and rocking forth, slightly bending knees, ready to spring forth from well to well.
I love our God. I love Him so. I love Him and Him alone. He tells me to love others as myself. I love Him despite myself. I love Him in others, and others because of Him. I love for I have been brought low. I love for I have learned to soar high. He is my all. My everything. Of Him, and Him alone, do I sing.
I sing of socks, and of sneakers, of old clothes and new sandals, and of wedding rings. I sing of mice, and of men, I sing of the difference that resides only in the length of whiskers. I sing of dogs and of cats, and o yes, of rats—o those ugly creatures that challenge me so.
I ask myself, are they not created by God as well?
Isn’t that dirty filthy stinkin’ rat also beautiful and also real?
Does not God shine the sun and shower the rain on disturbing rats as well?
O, if I could only love rates, then I would truly sing! Mend this heart, this rock of mine, hardened by selfish sight and by wanting what isn’t mine. Yes, boil me down, so I may drown in what the residue of life leaves to those who truly suffer.
I sing to you, O Glorious Rat. Creature of God!
I sing to you that you too shall sing with me. I see that I no longer need to sing alone. Come, accept my embrace. I forgive you. Now perhaps I too may be forgiven.
I see and smell and hear the truth. You the rat, object of everyone’s scorn. You too were once so young, before you crawled into the bin, before you journeyed down the darkened tunnel—you too—little infant rat—were brought forth from the mother’s womb.
Come young, come old! Come from your abandoned buildings, and vacant storage yards, from old ball fields well over grown. Come one, come all!
The pious pied piper now plays a gospel tune. The garbage begins to gather, the desolation takes on an evening glow. The sand all about me recedes from the stormy cloud. It slowly begins to lay low.
The desert creeps up upon a vast body of water.
I pass between walls of a held back sea, my feet tread cross a red clay bottom.
You too, brother rat, are a gift from our mighty God above. You too were loved into existence by the Lord of all.
God of all who share residence upon the earth.
God of all who sigh and sing.
God of all who snort and smile.
God of all who bellow and breathe, both fresh and soiled city air alike.
Come, then, last call, leave your dens, leave your hobbies, leave you daily work behind. Leave you rats, friends of mine, leave the muck and sewers of this world, climb the hills, and charge the mountain, dip yourselves in Carmel air, for even you reflect the glory of Zion from a peak so high.
Come and join the birds who listened so intently, who still this day patiently hear lonely troubadours sing. Yes, join us, for there is always plenty of room, room for even you, object of everyone’s scorn.
Enough for even you, you dirty rat.
A sight for sore eyes to this poor lonely thirsty preacher.
For through you I give our magnificent God mighty humble joy-felt praise.