A Voice in the Static

another from Wm. Countryman

Your words are hard to decipher,
your voice, submerged in the static
of chattering minds and hearts,
is hard to hear—
above all, for us the pious,
trying so hard to listen!
Jesus was never more of a problem
than for us who knew God best,
who read the scriptures and taught
the rest to know their sins.
The more confidence, the more static.
Better to confess, with Solomon,
that, finally, we do not know.
Confessing our ignorance, we make room
for friendship, we affirm beyond our understanding.

When Jesus brought good news,
he said, “Turn and believe.”
What does it take to believe
good news? Turning away from despair,
from fear and foreboding, surrender
of self-confidence, the opening of the hand
to receive goodness, the triumph
of thanksgiving over dread.


can only come as surprise.
And when grace comes, it confuses
all our accounts. All that time
spent with the double-entry columns
of our merits and our sins—all
swept away. All that deliberation,
the slow building of confident theologies­
all shattered. Yet, not all wasted.
Lying among the fragments,
we find, like Paul, the neglected
words that could have pointed us
toward the forgotten possibility,
to a knowledge of you that admits
we do not know, to a heart
willing to accept surprise.

Turn and believe the good news.
Your good news does not amend our knowledge of you.
It upends it, till every element of it,
shaken loose in free fall,
rearrange itself to form
a picture we recognize and yet
could not have drawn before.

Turn and believe. There is no hearing
of your voice that does not transform.
And no single hearing
that transforms once and for all.
Always some static remains,
blurring the voice we hear.

Grace, even when we have known
it many times before,
will still find ways to surprise.
Its music penetrates the gabble
and we are astonished and we are changed.

A Voice in the Static
L. William Countryman, Lovesongs & Reproaches (p. 63)

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One Comment on “A Voice in the Static”

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