Prepare for Joy: The Depth of Our Wounds


The first time I saw him it was just a flash of gray ringed tail
disappearing into autumn night mist as I opened the back door
to pour kibble into the empty cat dish on the porch: another
stray cat among many who visit the farm. A few stay.

So he did, keeping a distance in the shadows under the trees,
a gray tabby with white nose and bib, serious yet skittish,
watching me as I moved about feeding dogs, cats, birds, horses,
creeping to the cat dish only when the others drifted away.

There was something in the way he held his head,
an oddly forward ear; a stilted swivel of the neck.
I startled him one day as he ate his fill at the dish. He ran,
the back of his head flashing red, scalp completely gone.

Not oozing, nor something new, but recent. A nearly mortal scar
from an encounter with coyote, or eagle or bobcat.
This cat thrived despite trauma and pain, tissue still raw, trying to heal.
He had chosen to live; life chose him.

My first thought was to trap him, to put him humanely to sleep
to end his suffering, in truth to end my distress at seeing him every day,
envisioning florid flesh even as he hunkered invisible in the shadowlands of the yard.
Yet the scar did not keep him from eating well or licking clean his pristine fur.

As much as I want to look away, to avoid confronting his mutilation,
I greet him from a distance, a nod to his maimed courage,
through wintry icy blasts and four foot snow, through spring rains and summer heat with flies,
his wounds unhealed, reminder of his inevitable fate.

I never will stroke that silky fur, or feel his burly purr, assuming he still knows how,
but will feed his daily fill, as he feeds my need to know:
a life so broken, each breath taken is sacred air,
the depth of wounds proof of how he bleeds.


…by his wounds you have been healed.
1Peter 2:24b

3 thoughts on “Prepare for Joy: The Depth of Our Wounds

  1. Emily, your pointed but melancholic story here has prepared my mind for an appropriate meditation and further reading. Thank you.
    What a beautiful, almost startling, way to bring us back to one of the most haunting passages in Scripture:
    the prophet Isaiah’s Fourth Suffering Servant Song (52:13-15 – 53:1-12).

    The Isaiah passage continues to be one of my favorite in all of Scripture. I read it all year round, not just as part of the Lenten liturgical readings. The graphic wording reminds me — presents a snapshot — of the human Jesus and how He suffered, not only on His pain-filled journey to execution as a criminal, but in the final hours before His grisly death splayed upon a tree. During those agonizing hours, He was still being denied by most of His fellow Jews in the Sanhedrin and by at least one of His followers who had accompanied Him in His ministry; beaten and whipped by Roman soldiers; verbally and physically abused and mocked by most people in the crowd who witnessed His death. His goodness and His message were still held in contempt, even as he drew His last breath and beyond.

    In remembering Jesus’ death here, we read that witnesses relate how He had been often scorned, ignored, disbelieved as he traveled the land of the ancient Israel that He knew – teaching, healing, telling the people who would listen of His Father’s great love for them. That was over two millennia ago. We have only to look around us today at the savagery, internecine wars, racial, ethnic religious hatred and anti-godliness that prevail in that area today – and indeed in the entire world – and ask these questions: Was Jesus’ message ever really heard? Is it too late for us? Was that His final message?

    I have no theological study background other than 14 years of in-depth Scripture study, including exegesis, so I cannot say if my questions border on heresy or ignorance, or worse – lack of faith. One thing I do know: these questions and their possible answers bring me to constant prayer and supplication….

    We DO have Jesus’ promise relayed to us: that He will be with us until the end of the ‘age’ (time).
    At frightening times like those in which we are now living through, when all seems hopeless, I keep reassuring myself of that promise — like a sacred mantra.


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