In Response of John Donne
By Tom Schiavon
Holy Sonnet XIV. “Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you”
BATTER my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
A few days ago I was hanging out with some friends, and there were some new people there. For whatever reason, I thought it would make me feel good to have them really like me. My insecurity must have been raging at that moment, because I put my whole being into it.
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
It actually worked. I had them laughing hysterically. My impressions were on, my jokes were witty, and I knew just what it was that they wanted to hear. By the end of the night, I had secured my place as a cool new person to meet.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
The next day was Sunday – going to worship day. I woke up with the realization that I had just manipulated someone’s feelings so I could fill in the places where the gospel wasn’t good enough for me. My heart was shattered by my lack of righteousness as I went to declare the majesty and all-sufficiency of the grace of God.
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
I was wrong to have done that. And as I thought about it that day, I prayed several times that they would just forget me, or at least not think too highly of me. But where I would normally have participated in a period of extended self-flagellation, I was buoyed in my spirits by the all-redeeming work of Christ and God’s love toward me in showing me my sin.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
A few weeks earlier, as I looked at some of the repetitive patterns of sin in my life, I cried out to God. I told Him (as if he didn’t already know) that if I was going to get out of these cycles, He was going to have to help me. Whatever it was that I needed to know or experience to mature, I didn’t have it at that time.
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
It was in the midst of my sin that God showed His Fatherly love toward me. He let me indulge myself so that He would have a tangible example of what I needed to learn. In my weakness He was mighty to save. And since then I have had intermittent victory over that sin, learning that people’s affection can’t fill me up like Christ.
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
Tom Schiavon lives in Ft Myers, FL and attends Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He is co-founder of Redemption Song, an organization that aims at building community and engaging culture with the gospel.