A good friend of the ministry recently asked my opinion on Facebook about John Donne’s poem Batter My Heart. I am most familiar with this poem and have a fondness for it. It speaks of the God I have met and know. I responded to the Facebook inquiry saying I would reply on this blog, so here it begins. (It has turned into a few posts rather than a single one.)
Batter My Heart
First, if you are not familiar with Donne’s poem, here it is:
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Batter My Heart – FaceBook Comments
I wasn’t the only one this person asked about this poem, and here are some of the other responses.
“I don’t believe He is that rough and rude of a God. He stands inviting. He pursues. But He does not bruise, squash, or break.”
“I love it because to me it says, ‘God, whatever it takes for me to get to know You, I want it, because there’s nothing else that can satisfy my heart like You.’ I can’t explain it fully, but the desire to know Him is more intense than the desire to avoid suffering.”
Even though I understand the reply of the first commenter, I do have to say that I fall in line with the second. And I say this as someone who has been a bruised reed and a flickering wick. Some of my bruising has been self-inflicted, yet on the other hand, there’s been quite a bit that’s been God-inflicted. He has both bruised and healed me. And now neither of these actions has put His goodness or His Lordship into question for me.
Batter My Heart – Ravage Me
When I was meditating on this poem, thinking how I’d respond, I had this thought: “Batter my heart three-personed God, for I’m lost unless You ravage me.” A paraphrase for sure, but it is how I’ve internalized this sonnet. And this has been my living experience of God. God has been kind enough to bruise me and passionate enough to cause my flame to flicker. The Word says He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the flickering wick, but it doesn’t say that He won’t bruise us and/or diminish our flame. His passion for me to be His is so great that I have occasionally mistaken His overtaking as abusive. But I praise God for it. When my flame burns for self or my reed grows as an obstructive weed preventing me from knowing Him, He must quell my passions and bend me—yes, even bruise me.
“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
Hebrews 12:5b-8, 11 NLT
Next time, in “Batter My Heart – My Life and Experience,” I will discuss how the Lord has personally battered my heart.