A Prayer for Split Men

Almighty God,
To whom all restless hearts are open
All old desires known
And from whom no guilty secrets are hid
Of thy great mercy,
Regard the split men.

Regard the man
Who still dreams Christian dreams,
Who cannot pass a chapel
Except he enters in,
Who cannot hear a carol
Except he joins the choir.

“D’you have a program, love?
Here, I can share…”
He shakes his head
And smiles.
“My good girl, I don’t need it.
I was a choir boy, you know.”
Here endeth the lesson.
Thanks be to God!
Here beginneth the song.

Regard the split men.
Regard the man
Who is afraid.
Afraid of what it means
If he is stuff of earth
Afraid of what it means
If he is not.
Come Saturday you’ll find him
In the synagogue, you’ll find him
Reading Torah in the Hebrew
Nu! He has an iron skull.
“Oh, how I love thy law
It is my meditation
Day and night.
On the day I go to synagogue
Day and night,
It is my meditation.”
Today he wears
The hat he wears
The day he goes to synagogue.

Regard the split men.
Regard the man
Who is a church of one
Who guides his ship with firm hand
Amid a sea of sorrows.
Who listens on the shortwave
Straining for letters
For words
For a word
“Ah, good!
I’ve found my absolute!”
Another word
“But what does it mean?
Stop asking me!
I’m asking you.
Stop asking me!
I’d need three years,
At least…
Three years times 365
That’s 1095 days
Times three hours a day
(Let’s say)
That’s 3285 hours…
What’s that you say?
Five minutes to midnight?

But I’ve only begun!
Five minutes…I’ve only begun…”

I saw you in a dream.
I heard the church bells ringing.
I heard the chorus singing:
“Now is the night half-spent!
Now is our winter
Made glorious spring!
Now is our sorrow
Made glorious song!”

“Haste, haste!”
I heard the watchman crying
To royal David’s city,
To that lowly cattle shed,
Where the silent Word is pleading
In a manger for his bed.”

And shall we haste
As little children?
Shall we come like broken kings?
Like the old man and the fool?
The old men and the fools?

And shall we greet you
With our hopes?
And shall we touch you
With our fears?

And shall you know us
In our rising?
Shall you know us
In our kneeling down?
To ask we know not what?
To pray split prayers
Of split men?

And can it be?
(It cannot be.)
But can it be?

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!”
I woke
And it was day.

Bethel McGrew

Bethel McGrew is an American freelance writer whose work has been spotted in outlets on both sides of the pond, including Spectator UK and USA, The Critic, First Things, Plough, American Conservative, and more. She maintains a Substack, Further Up, blogs at Patheos under Young Fogey, and tweets compulsively @EstherOfReilly. She attends a dramatically tiny ACC church in an undisclosed Midwestern location, where the prayers of the 1928 BCP are still spoken and the songs of the 1940 hymnal are still sung.

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