By This Shallmenknow

Painting of Jesus Washing the Feet of the Disciples

by S.P. Bailey


Shallmenknow is no


No hocus pocus

Or abracadabra alakazam

These are trinkets and chatter

Bereft of power

Expressing the form

Denying the substance

And furthermore, you will

Search for them in vain

In the pages of the hymn book

But consider Hymn No. 308

Love One Another

Just four simple lines

The song we sing

When time is short

When the talks run long

And the babies are wailing

The Cheerios all gone

I was a child

Love One Another

Punched a hole

In the sky above my head

And spilled ice cold

Doctrine down my back

By this shallmenknow

The hymn proclaims

In the voice of Jesus

Ye are my disciples

I treasured up that

Shallmenknow in my heart

The one true incantation

I speculated on its origins

And listened for it carefully

In lessons and prayers

Waiting for Him to do

Something else—anything—

By the power of shallmenknow


I figured it out eventually

The words to the hymn

Also, I learned it’s hard sometimes

To love one another

That there’s no amulet

To ward off the fear

That often stops us dead

That makes us imagine ourselves

Over and over again

Getting coldcocked

Square in the open heart

That there’s no spell to bypass

The monotony of marching

To duty’s drumbeat

That we can’t just erase

With the blink of an eye or

A twitch of the nose

The stark cold morning

Of dreams and plans set aside

No, the true power of shallmenknow

Is eked out without enchantment

Just a numberless succession of

Disagreeable moments

A million chances to leave

Advantages untaken and

True, cruel words unsaid

To give without expectation

And beyond all comfort

To give, for others’ good,

The ever-grasping self

Such a head fake

That it is completely lost

Christopher D. Cunningham is the managing editor for Public Square Magazine and contributor to Third Hour. He loves emphatically celebrating the normal healthy development of his sons Albus and Whitman, writing about the Church of Jesus Christ, finding the middle ground on most controversies, and using Western Family generic brand lip balm. Christopher is a proud graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho, and a resident of San Antonio, Texas.