IV. The Leper (1:40-45)

Unclean,
I hide myself.
Lest I am seen
And sent away,
Purged from the city
While dogs and rats are allowed
To stay and hide in its alleys,
Infect its crevices.

But they say
I am unclean.
I do not argue;
I am one of the twice-cursed ones
Who cannot hide his sins
Beneath a cloak of
Smooth, clear skin,
The whitened sepulchre
Of an unblemished face.

I am as unclean
Outside as within
So I conceal my body
As our first parents did
In the shame of naked sin.

And yet, as my flesh withers
My soul is ripe with life,
An unexpected womb
Conceiving of an offering.

The sacrifice of Psalmist’s praise
Is not made up of a lovely face
But a contrite heart—
Such a heart is mine.

Perhaps it is the only organ spared
And even it is broken.
Its beats in lament
With my loosened limbs:

Unclean,
But yearning.

Unclean,
But keening.

Unclean,
But seeking.

I step out,
Painfully, timidly,
From where I’ve been
Hiding, waiting, and dying,
Decaying though still living.

To my knees
I sink before You
To present my pitiful present.
Its packaging fails, unclean,
Soiled in its futile wrappings—
But if you will…

You will?
Can it be?
At your word, your glance, your touch—
Ah, how long since I’ve been touched!

Immediately,
I am clean.

From that gentle press of the fingertips,
Life springs
Immediately.

I feel it.
I feel it in nerves revived.
Shivering and pulsing,
Skin reforms before my eyes
And shame is removed
Within and without.

Immediately,
My mangled heart
Laid at Your feet
Beats a song of praise.
Molded and cradled
By hands invisible,
Its scars—
Unlike Yours—
Erased.

Immediately,
I stand humbled without shame
For You’ve knit me back together:
Fearfully and wonderfully remade.

With ease, I run to present
The body and soul,
My whole self,
Contrite and united,
Immediately.

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