The Common Good
May-June 1999

Hymn to an Insane-Loving God

by Chris Rice | May-June 1999

On the first anniversary of the day Spencer met you face to face.

For him it was always hard, accepting who he was,
Even in your eyes.
So I do that today,
For he was much greater than he knew.

For his undeserved embrace of Prodigals,
Despite persecution across-the-tracks,
Ugly hate, flight, abandonment,
Indifference, neutrality, silence,
And countless white eager-beavers busy disappearing.
For soothing souls with the balm of forgiveness felt,
While propelling them forward to make a new history.
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For keeping his vows to his little postage stamp on earth,
West Jackson, in sickness and health,
Christmas robberies and Bulls-eye barbecue throw-downs,
Over decades long enough to uncover all our masks,
and his:
A fellowship of recovering sinners
Freeing from addictions seen and unseen:
Cocaine and pride, winos and egotists,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For his Labrador-like patience, stability, devotion,
Sticking with impossible people
And an abused druggie-looking
momma mutt stray we called Bebe—
Car-hit, we wanted her put to a restful end;
He couldn’t bear it, and without permission,
beyond reason,
Spent $300, enduring our wrath,
And Bebe wiggled her way into our extended family.
Even for that, we thank you, insane-loving God.

For his restless Truth-seeking,
Enlarging us with gift of language and story:
Scottie, who would not come through that open gate,
God’s "prime directive,"
"Reconcilers don’t die, we multiply,"
For playing the grace card, not the race card,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

For yoking with me to the end,
Dragging the plow through sin-thick sod,
Never, either of us, easy to love.
The fragility of our yoke gave way,
Only to reveal a greater one, invisible,
Binding us mysteriously to you
And so to find the way back to each other.
I miss that holy, muddy ground,
The jokes that only we shared,
His hug, and his promise,
"Chris, I love you like my own brother."
I thank you, insane-loving God.

For bushwhacking him by grace,
And carrying him to the top of the mountain,
Moses-like, to glimpse awesome new territory
And there, for once, to see himself with your eyes,
"My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased."
For sending him back down, for a moment,
To describe the view,
We thank you, insane-loving God.

What he saw from afar,
Is now for us to possess.
To cross the dangerous river, to seize the land,
To cultivate the culture of grace,
Sowing with love beyond reason, unfair, undeserved—

The way you love.
Like you, he showed me how to love insanely, too,
And he was greater than he knew.

Chris Rice lived and worked in an interracial community in Jackson, Mississippi, for 17 years, and was co-founder (with Spencer Perkins, who died January 27, 1998, and to whom this poem is dedicated) of Reconcilers Fellowship and co-author of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. He was a research fellow at Boston University’s Institute on Race and Social Division, and lived with his family in Vermont, when this poem appeared.

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