“A Costly Ascent,” read by Katelyn J. Dixon.
A Costly Ascent
ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή*
It is no small thing to find you here,
Languishing at the ladder’s end of Jacob’s dream.
Long is the night, even longer the mourning;
Yet here you wait, silent as midnight—still
As the stone whose hardness is both pillow and altar.
Your hands, once lifted in prayer, now grasp
The bottom rung—hoping to be touched
By the feet of angels who pass you on their stairway.
How you wish they would pause, placing
The cool hand of blessing on the fevered brow of your longing.
In the hour before dawn, they whisper their secret:
The way up is the way down.
All along, you’ve been climbing
And you did not know it.
Blessed and re-named, you begin again
Rung by rung, limping towards Paradise.
*“The way up and the way down are one and the same.” —Heraclitus
“The Kingdom of God is at hand”
You said, spreading your palms
Wide enough for the hurt of the world
To pierce them through.
Sometimes I look down at the hands you gave me—
Small, with years of storyline crisscrossing
Through soft pink riverbeds of skin,
A single brown freckle marking my palm like a seed—
And I think of You, weaving stories from words like
Planting words as flowers in the hearts of your people
Hiding treasure in plain sight, writing in the dust;
Catching souls like fireflies on a summer night.
So I practice spreading my arms wide open
To receive the whole of your earthy kingdom and I wonder
If my hands will ever look like yours:
Scarred and holy—
Worn, with a little
Dirt beneath the nails.
Methodist Hospital, Room 213
Take off your shoes: this ground is holy.
Let your feet encounter
The coolness of this barren floor;
Let your eyes behold
The faintly burning fluorescence,
The white coated walls, gleaming with indifference.
Your mother’s fading
Has made of this room a thin place
Her weakened heart murmuring, hovering
Between the parting veil of this world and the next—
The air heavy laden
With the question of death.
Let your cloak of certainty fall
As you begin to apprehend
That this is the ground where angels tread.
Surely you have sensed their nearness,
Their coming and going on a staircase formed
From the flat staccatos of your prayers.
Her life itself invites your embrace
Of the truth she has held all along:
The Lord was in this place
And you did not know it.
Katelyn J. Dixon is a writer and photographer from Seattle, WA. She loves discovering beauty in unexpected places, encountering Christ in the faces of strangers, and worshipping her Maker through creativity. You can find her work online at www.katelynjdixon.com and on Instagram @tenthousandplaces.
Artwork: “Jacob’s Ladder” by William Blake, 1806 (Public Domain).