A desperate man in camel hair

John the Baptist was a lion of a man. He lived roughly, spoke passionately, and was killed because he wouldn’t compromise. But the most amazing part of his life was that his whole life revolved around making himself less and making much of Jesus. I named my son after him, and in the months leading up to his birth, I wrote this poem for him, explaining his name.

John

Ancient Israel was filled with wickedness and greed
Pride, love of money, lust, and every misdeed
Against the corruption, no soul dared take a stand
Until a voice was heard from Judea’s wasteland

“Repent!” Cried this voice, without any fears
Men went to their knees, as the Jordan mingled with tears
“You vipers!” Bellowed the voice, “who warned you to flee?”
Bear fruit, for the axe is already at the root of the tree

For the furnance is blazing, and it lusts for wood
Dont stare at me, if only you understood
Who was to come after me, shouted this crier
not with water, said he, this one baptizes with fire!

I am not worthy to carry the sandals that rest under his feet
And one day, this man, you will all have to meet
Like wheat he will winnow you, will you be in his barn?
Or will you be cast out into burning Apollyon?

John was the name of the wilderness voice
And though his father was a priest he made the choice
To leave the world of riches, comfort, and health
And put on camel skin, cinched with a leather belt

He lived in the desert, without taste for fame or money
And satisfied his appetite with repentance, locusts and honey
Sand was his bedsheets, rocks lay under his head
He lived all his life for God, until Herod took his head

Jesus himself mourned for this man, buried without fame
So if you were wondering why you have your name
It is because our hope, our prayer, is that you would one day see
That running after this world ends in, and leaves a trail of misery

But there is another trail, don’t miss it, it’s very thin
And it runs right past the approval of men
It forks away from riches, from comfort it is parallel
But one thing it doesn’t do, it doesn’t lead to Hell

And I pray the rest of your life, you stay on this path
As you take your first steps, when we fumble your first bath
As you start to ride a bike, as you learn to drive a car
When you learn the fruitlessness of wishing on a star

As you struggle in college, when you learn you can’t sing
When you nervously begin shopping for a wedding ring
When you have kids of your own and you dont know what to write
When you realize your black hair is beginning to streak white

When you realize you are an old soul instead of a young heart
And the end of your life races to meet the start
Through all of it, it will be up to you to make a choice
To stand resolute, along with that fearless voice

Crying from that desert, still striking the heart’s chord
With the piercing, constant “prepare ye the way of the Lord”
Because now that’s your job, little guy, to pick up that camel coat
To cinch that leather belt and clear your throat

And let people know that Jesus comes again
And we must all choose to be an enemy or friend
To violently pick up arms, or to gently put them down
To bend our knees, or to snatch his crown

So as you age, may you be restless in ease
And when you see people, may you see that their knees
Are not yet bowed, and may it cause you anst.
Until you muster the courage to join the ranks

Of those who do not think of themselves too much
And instead busy themselves becoming a caring touch.
For broken people, who we think are beyond repair
Just need a desperate man, wearing camel hair