Print Version July 10th, 2006
‘I will betroth you to myself for ever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love. I will betroth myself to you faithfully and you will come to know the Lord.’
For years now I haven’t been able to call Jesus ‘Lord’. The word worms uneasy in my mouth and in my heart I always know that when I call him Lord, our Lord, the Lord, I am evading something. Jesus is not Lord to me. Once he was. But at some point he slipped in closer, ducked under my guard, and planted himself beside me. Since then calling him Lord has felt like a diversionary tactic, a way of keeping him at arms length—not that it stops me, from time to time, from doing just that.
He hasn’t asked me to call him ‘husband’ yet, the way God, through Hosea, asks Israel but sometimes it seems it’s heading that way.
Ursula LeGuin has a utopian novel called The Dispossessed with an ideal, if not idyllic, society speaking an invented language, Pravic, a language without kinship ties or possessive pronouns but with one word I love: ammar. It means brother—or sister—not brother by biology but brother by humanity, brother among the living. For a while that’s what I called Jesus—ammar, brother of my heart. I liked it, I was moved by it, and so was he at first but I slowly woke to the sense that he was never completely content with being ammar. He still heard me keeping a distance. Ammar was too non-specific for his liking, too un-possessive, in the end too safe. So ammar has had to go. And I’ve had to learn again the language of love. What do you call the one who is closer to your heart than you thought was possible? You end up babbling. Borrowing embarrassingly from silly love songs. You end up saying, ‘Hey you!’ You end up in silence, gazing.
Well, I do. What about you?