The following poem was written in 2015, a few weeks after having professed my First Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus on August 28th of that year. 1 It captured a moment of prayer where I brought to God my doubts, fears and insecurities about living my Christian commitments for the rest of my life. The poem emerged from some of these unsettling questions — flashes of my own recurring temptations — that still reverberate within me today:
Why do I struggle to stay true to a promise I was once sure I would keep forever?
Why do I fear actually receiving that most coveted grace of “final perseverance”?
Why do I doubt the impact “my sacrifice” can actually make on the lives of others?
… Did God really ask me to give “all this” up?
I invite you to pray with this poem in light of any of your own personal temptations you might be facing today.
Nailed and Unnailed Hands:
The Struggle of Temptation and Victory on the Cross
I had one nail through one hand,
But I was still afraid to be crucified with both.
My unnailed hand longed to
Wrench out the hammered nail
Of my martyred hand.
I tried to leap off the cross
Out of agony and doubt,
Dreaming how it would feel to be completely nailless again.
It was just a thought.
The beautiful pain rooted me in my humanity.
My nailed hand — bloodstained, petrified, disturbed, toiling,
Became so human.
I was still deathly afraid of accepting that other nail.
The beautiful “painlessness” rooted me in my divinity.
My unnailed hand — unscathed, unbound, unphased, free,
Became so divine.
The crimson tears from my human hand
Left my divine hand aching to liberate the other
From all its suffering.
Without the experience of a nail,
My divine hand had forgotten
The beauty of humanity. It had lost its calling.
The human hand fought to loosen the cross.
It hungered now. It thirsted now. It could not wait to come down.
Its flesh fought to rip through the nail
At the cost of excruciating but momentary pain.
In desolation, my divine hand made a mistake.
It listened to the specious thoughts of
My human hand that howled for help
In Infinite darkness.
My prayer was for assistance from God,
Not from my thought-to-be divine hand.
The cross was removed from my once-nailed hand.
My now-unnailed hand lost its divinity;
My then-nailed hand lost its humanity.
I freely choose to jump off the cross
Without receiving the gift of humanity;
Without receiving the gift of divinity,
Without the help of God.
I abandon my cross.
It was just a thought.
I had both nails through both hands,
But I was still afraid to be kept crucified by both.
The only way to persevere on the cross
Was to remember.
They hunger now. They thirst now. I do not come down.
My once-freed hands chose to be nailed,
Even if now they desired to be uncrucified;
Even if now they believed to be misled in their original choice.
Their decision to be nailed was
Their promise to never abandon the cross
No matter the offers now.
They chose freely to be nailed —
To die in freedom;
To die for freedom.
Now in death, both hands share in humanity;
Now in victory, both hands share in divinity.
They freely choose to remain on the cross.
I receive the gift of total Humanity.
I receive the gift of total Divinity.
With the help of God.
I resurrect on my cross.
- What do the nailed hand and unnailed hand represent in your personal life? Place particular temptations, sins, people, attachments, experiences, emotions, fantasies, thoughts, etc. in each hand. How do these differing internal realities relate to one another?
- What do you do when temptation emerges in your life? Do you wrestle with the temptation, sit in the struggle, run away, or just give in? What do you believe God is calling you to do with your temptations?
- What particular grace does God want to give you in order to identify, combat and overcome your own temptations? What happens when you remember that Temptation/Victory and Crucifixion/Resurrection are two sides of the same coin when united to Christ?
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Lord, I worship you as I am.
And here is all I can give you today…
I love you with all of my restless mind…
I love you with all of my divided heart…
I love you with all of my weakened body…
I love you with all of my desolate soul…
For it is only when I love you with all of these elements, not despite them,
That I can fulfill your commandment
To love all of You, with all of me (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Help me to never forget that salvific truth:
Temptation and Victory are always one in you.
Lord, I worship you as I AM.”
- Read my article about this life-changing moment of professing my First Vows in the Society of Jesus: “My Three Jesuit Vows: Living with Radically ‘Open Hands’” ↩