I had a conversation a couple weeks ago with a woman who is a professional blogger. How many of you know a person who makes his or her living by blogging? She was an English major in college, so her appreciation of the classic American and English works is understandable. She loves and reads poetry, quoting the great masters almost as easily as she breathes. I explained to her that my own knowledge of poetry didn’t go much beyond the few lines I could quote from the movie “Dead Poets Society.” We laughed, and as we parted she challenged me to read a little more Keats and Whitman.
Only a few days later, in my morning devotions, I was reading from F. B. Meyer’s late 19th century work Paul: A Servant of Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1, Meyer is beautifully expounding about how God, in His eternal wisdom, began fashioning us before birth for our purpose in life. He quotes Paul from the book of Ephesians:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
Meyer explains that the Greek for the word here translated as workmanship is poiema, the root from which we get our English word poem. In the articulate and masterful manner which is so typical of Meyer’s work he expands on the poetry metaphor:
God has a distinct thought in each human life. He creates with a purpose. As a great poet may adopt various kinds of rhythm and measure, such as may suit his conception, but has nevertheless a purpose in each poem that issues from his creative fancy, so God means something as He sends each life forth from the silence of eternity; and if we do not hinder Him He superintends the embodiment of that conception, making our entire life, from the cradle to the grave, a symmetrical and homogeneous poem, dominated by one thought, though wrought out with an infinite variety of illustration and detail.
~F.B. Meter, from Paul: A Servant of Jesus Christ
This conjures in my mind the scene from the movie “Dead Poets Society” where the new teacher, John Keating, is introducing to his students at an all boys prep school the chapter on poetry. In the introduction the author of the text is telling, in dry, quasi-mathematical terms, how to measure the greatness of a poem. Keating calls this explanation “excrement,” then requires the boys to rip the entire chapter out of the textbook. At first the boys are shocked and unwilling, but soon they are gleefully tearing out pages and throwing them in the trash. Then Keating has the boys “huddle up” as he asks why we read and write poetry. The answer: “That you are here, that life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
I also recall a humorous scene from my junior high days where our English teacher was teaching about poetry. Like the teacher John Keating, our teacher also tried to expand our concept of poetry by explaining that poems do not need to follow a particular rhythm, they don’t always rhyme, and sometimes it is difficult to initially interpret the author’s meaning behind his or her words. Our assignment that evening was to write a short poem, and we would share these poems by reading them aloud during the next class. I haven’t memorized many poems in my life, but I’ll never forget the poem one of my classmates penned and read aloud for that assignment:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I have a lawnmower…
Do you like fish?
The class howled, as did the teacher whose instruction was permanently embedded in our collective memories: “Poems do not need to follow a particular rhythm, they don’t always rhyme, and sometimes it is difficult to initially interpret the authors meaning behind his or her words.”
We are God’s poetry. God is as work in us, to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). At times, we feel like the events in our lives are not rhyming, they are not following any kind of predictable rhythm, and they certainly don’t make any logical sense. But we can be assured that our Master Poet is at work in us as He makes everything in our lives rhyme according to His ultimate purposes.