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take off your shoes

February 15, 2008

Revelation 4:2-11

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones I saw 24 elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.

And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.

The cheap, dorm room lamp that hangs above my piano doesn’t turn on anymore. It’s probably the bulb, but I’m just as satisfied in the shadows.

So I sat in the darkest corner of our apartment. Alone. I sat in the black office chair with the kind of posture that only a decade of piano lessons can cultivate in a person’s subconscious. I sat, eyes closed, and listened for eternity.

Eyes opened. Piano. The piano is not eternal, so I closed my eyes again. And listened. I reached out for the plastic keys that I knew were just in front of me and played the chord my fingers fell on. The only decision I had to make was whether to go to a minor third or up a fifth. My hands know the math that comes after the second measure. I don’t remember what I chose.

I rock back and forth between two chords, there in the doorway, and He smiles at me. I feel the flame in His gaze and I want it. He waits for me. Two chords. Two chords is safe, and I can do it with my eyes closed without the risk of hitting an incorrect key.

Because right now He is utterly unapproachable. That throne is terrifying in its beauty, and the kind of love that waits for me in the center of it will consume me. I still want it, and He waits for me.

I glance down at my two chords and my stomach turns. I rock back and forth between pride and disobedience. Between apathy and false humility. Between selfishness and hatred. My feet, my shoes, my pant legs, are soaked through with mud. And He waits. I rock back and forth between the sea of crystal before Him and the stain on my walk. And I see Him waiting.

And I don’t hear the notes I’m playing but I hope in that moment they’re minor. Because I want to yell at Him. I want to make Him come out. I can’t go in there! How can I go in there? Can’t He see me? Can’t He see where I’ve been? Can’t He see the stain on my clothes? How can He call me in there like this? Doesn’t He know I’ll ruin it? I can’t go in there!

And He waits. And I know that He knows. So I wipe my feet as best I can, add a third chord, and step out of the doorway. Eyes still closed I try to step lightly as though I can’t feel clumps of filth landing softly on the floor beneath me. This is so embarrassing, but He knows. I want to be there and He knows and He waits so I go.

I add a fourth chord to complete the phrase and I run. I’m already in. I’ve already ruined His splendor. I’ve already burdened eternity with dirt it was never meant to endure. And I wonder if I’ll survive. I wonder if He’ll look at me when I get there. He can’t look on sin. It can’t stand in His presence and about the moment I’m sure I’ll never endure Him I’m close enough to want nothing more than to try and then I’m there and all I can do is fall at His feet.

And He waits.

And I play, and I open my eyes. I’m playing in D, and as I turn to look behind me at mistake after mistake that I so boldly smeared all over Revelation 4 all I see are the last few, blood-red footprints fading to a pure, crystal finish.

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