I played my cards, I said.
She knew what I meant. I’d used that worldly-wise part of me. That part which knows when you’re playing games. That part which ill-tolerates being taken for a fool. I’d smiled the sweetest of smiles and I’d countered his check with a checkmate.
I’d enjoyed playing my cards too, truth be told. Enjoyed the parry and thrust of it. The shift of the balance of power to the smaller player. The elegant subtlety of the whole interaction. For we both knew the game we were playing and he had not expected me to play with such skill.
I played my cards, I said to her. And the middle-class English part of me felt slightly ashamed. Because cunning is not nice. Cunning is not fair. Cunning is not godly.
Except once I heard a Man say something else. Cunning as serpents, innocent as doves, he cried. Cunning, the regulating of one’s behaviour from the inside out. And I realise that cunning is godly when by it I walk free of the box they offer, constraint from outside in. Holy is the shrewdness in seeing what they don’t believe I’ll see, stepping deftly from chains which wind around, that I might rather follow his voice.
Yes, holy is that cunning and this the wisdom I want. To walk free in his freedom, voice and power not theirs to co-opt because already my gift of self has been given to the Man who spoke that day.
Yet also to be winsome, this my desire. That even as I play the cards which keep me from the tangles, as I hold strong the boundaries of my soul, he still more would shine through me, a compelling vision of love.
And for this he tells of a dove. Innocence, meaning not mixed, free from guile. The beauty of now-untainted heart, his life alive in us. That what they see is what they get because we’re always and only now for him. A holiness compelling, and these saints now icons of the King.
Yes, cunning, yes, and innocence too. To play the cards which guard my heart, guard gift already given. Yet, too, to bare same icon-heart, his winsome smile on view.