The Threshold is a poem that tells a painful and dark story from the biblical narrative. While it highlights the particular experience of the unnamed woman in Judges 19, it could resonate with anyone who has encountered sexual violence. This poem came to me in a flash last spring when I was working on some coursework for my Doctor of Ministry. I’d like to share it with you here, and some further comment following.
I am the threshold.
I have held the weight of sorrow and violence and pain.
I have held the weight of woman, pushed out.
Woman without name
Woman whose memory becomes
This woman whose body I held,
As she reached her hand
across me to the door.
The promise of the door was her salvation.
The door was just beyond her grasp.
and it did not open.
Keeping her on the outside would be her fall.
If I could but be
An opened door
How I would have shut out all who do her harm,
shut out all her pain.
And kept her safe and free and whole.
But I am not
I am the threshold.
I am entry and I am exit.
I am possibility and I am despair.
I am the beginning and I am
Dawn opens the fearful door.
Revealing brokenness in the morning light.
I am for feet, but I held her hand, as it reached out to me through the darkest night.
About the Artwork: After preaching a sermon on Judges 19, people responded prayerfully writing words of reflection and prayers on different colors of paper. Then I along with some youth and others from the congregation crafted this beautiful piece of art from the multicolored prayers. (note: this was at Watchung Avenue Presbyterian in NJ, where I was a student pastor).
A little more about the poem: In my academic work, especially during my time at Princeton Theological Seminary, I spent much time with women’s stories in the bible, and in the early church. Sadly there are many dark stories in the bible, stories that hold the weight and the reality of being a women throughout history.
These stories must not be ignored. They must be reckoned with, because they are part of the human story. Some might find this type of work contradictory to my nature—joyful, full of life and energy. But, I have a fierceness to my story that works with my lighter joy-seeking side. This balance is good, because I don’t get depressed by staying in the darkness with a scripture that is troubling to me. Rather, by examining it, and reading commentaries on it, figuring out where God is in (if at all) a scripture gives me hope.
Asking, “Where would God be in this?” is important for people of faith. Bringing these stories to the surface, is more authentic than trying to hide the ugliness in our story. In The Threshold her only hope of salvation is the door to which she clings with her broken body. Survivors of sexual violence need to hear the Good News that there is beauty in the dawn’s light. This good news, can be found in Mary Oliver’s Breakage,
If we could speak beauty and life into each survivor, they might know that even in their brokenness, when the morning light pours upon the broken open pieces of their soul, beauty shines and radiates through them and every darkness.
Please email me, if you'd like to connect: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need it today, the number for the 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673.
Blessings to you dear reader. Know that you are loved. —Pastor Kori