While I consider myself to primarily be a fiction writer, I can’t seem to get away from poetry in 2018 so far. In January, I learned how to promote my chapbook, Bone China Girls: A Poetic Account of a Female Crime, on Instagram, which has been an ongoing project. My friend’s New Year’s resolution is to read more poetry and I’ve provided him with some helpful sources. At the end of January, I had the honor of serving as a judge for Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition. One of my best friends from college is pursuing his MFA and asked me to read and comment on his thesis. As a cherry on top of the whole poetic sundae, I’ve also been moved to write several poems in response to the Parkland school shooting, as well as the prevailing angst in our country overall.
People keep asking how I’m coming along with the young adult novel I’ve been working on for the last few years, but the truth is, I don’t really feel God drawing me to write fiction right now. I’m tempted to get anxious about this, thinking about how time is passing me by, lots of my friends are already legitimately published, trends are changing and by the time I get this thing done, nobody will care about it. To be entirely transparent, I’ve struggled recently with whether all those people who told me I shouldn’t study creative writing because I’ll never get a decent job were right. They surround my bed when I can’t sleep, shaking their fingers at me and saying, “We told you so.”
This is a bit of a digression, but I share it because I think it’s important to reinforce both for myself and other readers who might be struggling with this that when we have these thoughts, they NEVER come from God. 1 Timothy 1:7 states, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” For further scriptural support, check out God’s ultimate advice for staying focused on the right things: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Lord will never lead us to fear the future or to storm ahead with our own plans. He asks us to be obedient and follow His direction. For writers, this means obedience to what He calls us to write, whether in subject matter or genre, as well as to be trusting of His timing.
The focus on poetry that the Lord has given me recently has caused me to think a great deal about what it means to Him. Just as creativity matters to God, I believe poetry also matters to Him. This is clear from the fact that two entire books of the Bible are composed solely of poetry: Psalms and The Song of Solomon. In the first, poetry is used for numerous purposes, including the praise of God, expressions of thankfulness, and even words of despair. The second expresses in beautiful language and metaphors both the earthly love between a man and a woman and, on a deeper level, the love of God for His people. Taken together, these two books illustrate both God’s side of our relationship with Him and the ways that we relate to Him directly. I am reminded of the lyrics of a beautiful song by the folk music duo Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer: “In praise and lamentation, peace and desperation; any way I do, I come into the presence of the Lord.”
But there’s another less visible reason why poetry matters to God. It is because He Himself is a poet. Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Greek word for “workmanship” is poiema, which means “something made.” It also is the origin of our modern English words “poetry” and “poem.” God is the ultimate Poet, and we are His creations. I think of the process I go through to write a poem, how it involves the deliberate and meaningful arrangement of lines, the choosing of just the right words. And then I think of the Lord taking that great of care with me, with you, with us, and it absolutely blows my mind. It’s a powerful revelation of His creativity and His love. While one might argue that it is a pretty big leap to apply modern language words to derive meaning from a text composed when those words did not exist, I submit that the Holy Spirit is not bound by time or even the evolution of a language. To me, it’s no coincide given that poetry is such an integral part of scripture.
So, I’m not getting much done on my novel. But so what? Poetry is giving me the chance to help friends better understand their own work and the work of others. It’s enabling me to process some very complicated emotions I have about the current state of the world. It’s even helped me to promote my book. Most of all, it has helped me to understand that I am God’s own poem, and because of this, I don’t need to worry about the timing of what I write and when. I take direction from Him.