Clutched in Arms, Crushed in Hugs

Oli Higham

Greater Glasgow December 01, 2017

Part of pioneering is doing things differently. So this is less of an article and more of a single question built around some poetry.

The question

How do we, when we’re deep into the journey of following Christ, not lose sight of the mind-blowingly incredible news that we are sharing? How do we constantly remind ourselves that this story we want to tell is amazing?

Pioneering is tough and at times discouraging. I believe we need to find ways to dwell in the good news ourselves and be refreshed by its beauty.

I’d love to hear the rhythms and ways that other pioneers use to keep that child-like joy burning within us. Please do share in the Facebook discussion below this article. It would be great to learn from one another.

And the poems

As part of Rock Community Church we have a fortnightly group, Rock Salt Collective, which is a collection of artists, creatives and people who just want to explore God while thinking outside the box. This group itself has been an experiment (we’re three or four years into it and still letting it evolve), which has allowed people to engage with God in a different way. To explore who God is and who we are. Some people have been regular church attenders, have started coming on Sunday mornings through being part of the group, and some use the group as the main place of exploring God. It’s been exciting watching people at different stages of their journey wrestle together with the same questions.

Before the summer we were looking at a few different parables. So here is my reflection on the parable of the prodigal son as two poems. They were written as a first draft and haven’t been reworked but I wanted to capture both the depths of LOST and joys of HOME.

HOME [Part One]

Running uphill on treadmills, not making mountains out of molehills, reality is downhill, Into swine feed overspill, consigned to vistas of landfill, resigned to life on standstill, Party hard and now on the comedown, cold chills, no thrills, head like pneumatic drills, Trying to steal precious sleep, Like kleptomaniacs eyeing up sleeping pills, Inept brainiac ideas spring like months of daffodils, thinking you’re not daft until Now not suited and booted, style points muted, no longer find yourself dressed to kill. You’re sat in pig swill, the bank bills have dried up like river beds in drought season, Knees deep in, where the fleas have been, stench on the winds with the breeze in, Stolen dad’s money, no waiting for daddy’s death to ease in, that’s in-house treason. Smells causing gasps, asthmatic wheezing, bankruptcy the reason the ecstatic is ceasing, Pleasure fast decreasing, depression is piercing, all those close friends now laying low, No longer wanting to know, they’re on a different rhythm though, not offering hugs, bro Now throwing elbows, party with gusto, stole all the dough, literally a bit of give and go. Didn’t read the memo? It’s all in freefall like Jericho, listen up like surround sound audio. Life turned blue like indigo, bank account frozen like eskimos, last penny spent long ago, Left with nothing like clothes on David by Michaelangelo, so stop the braggadocio, Caught in the undertow, hollow, like base of champagne, bubble’s popped, end of reign, Blown it all like hurricanes, mutiny on the waves, ocean graves, drowning in this pain, Enslaved as the waters ensnare, floods of despair, in the clutches of sea serpents. Thought breaks the darkness, dawn’s disturbance, it’s certain, show’s over, final curtain. Only one choice left, leave this hell, hit the road, desperate times, the clock is urgent, Heart with heavy load, find my way back to old abode, and ask to become dad’s servant.

HOME [Part Two]

Leave behind the cesspit, left restless and desperate, long walk home to address this. Plainly unfit, transgressed, now a misfit, but pressed by the distress, return and confess it, Confronted by the bittersweet, defeat in my deceit, mistreated him, virtually deleted him. Heartbeat runs like an athlete, throw myself at his feet, confess I’m left incomplete in sin, Beg his better nature, face what I must incur, soul in tatters, spirit in downbeat talespin But in all these matters, hope that won’t shatter. There exists a concrete goodness in him, And therein, lies a glimmer, that he might allow me a place, as a slave, saved by grace. Work all my days, showcase my regret, pay back my debt, return respect, erase my disgrace And if he says “no” and continues my curse, I’ll be no better off but at the same time no worse. Floodwaters crash over me, fully immersed, inscribe my tombstone and summon the hearse. Eyes, on the horizon, tears blur my focus, but even in that, locus is clear, the site I was born Breath drawn for too long, gasp for air that is gone, my footsteps too heavy to carry on, The thinnest of hopes was a mirage, my oasis was wrong, ability to walk is sabotaged, Darkness fills the world like a day with no dawn, this shipwreck battered by the barrage, Of all that I have done, transgressions, in slow motion, watching them one by one, My failures as his son, like wax I melt, a desire to be anyone else. And then I’m undone For on this homeward path, I see the dust clouds rise. My father flies, tears of joy fill his eyes. My head now bowed, chest buckled under sobs aloud, collapse to knees, repentant cries, And bereft of time, prepare my speech, a call for rest, of servanthood and all confessed. But, in his form, no anger now professed, just wild eyes and love abounds in puffing chest. This figure falls on mine, words unjust, there’s no disgust, he holds me there within the dust, Clutched in arms, crushed in hugs, tender words brush my soul, my heart now hushed. “You are an answer to my pleas. My son’s return, a prayer like mustard seed was sown, End to all my fevered groans,” then heady shouts to servants, “Ready now a kingly throne, Prepare a feast, and get my robe, today rejoice, the prince of death is overthrown, Let it be known, my son was dead, now he’s alive, my son was lost and now is home.”

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Oli Higham

Oli Higham

Oli is the pastor at Rock Community Church. Born in Brighton but long term resident of Dumbarton with his wife, Aliona, and kids, Sofia and Theo. He is really into Jesus and to a lesser extent comic books, spoken word poetry, street art, Arsenal FC, rugby, cooking and coffee.