Tuesday, August 11, 2009

God's Poetry

(The following CBG article ran in diocesan papers in 2006-2007. That year, I taught in a 7th/8th grade English classroom after the teacher became ill just three weeks into the school year. That same 8th grade class lost a student to suicide in October - when a family friend posed as an admirer of the 8th grade girl and sent messages that devastated Megan Meier to the point of despair. You have probably heard of Megan's story. It has been covered by national news and prompted a change in Missouri State Law regarding online harassment. I began teaching at Megan's school just weeks before the tragedy and remained with those classes until the end of the school year. It was not part of my plan. I wanted to continue writing full time. But I felt that God wanted me there - for a little while - for the sake of the students who mourned the death of their classmate. This article came out of that year's experiences. With prayers and intercession for Megan, her family, and all the lives she touched. Lord, hear our prayer.)

“So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rainwater, beside the white chickens.” American poet William Carlos Williams wrote the poem. I happen to like it, but my husband just laughs and says, “That’s not a poem; it’s a sentence.” John is right, of course; it is a sentence. I am right, too; it is definitely poetry. I guess I just like the simplicity. In my mind, I can see the wheelbarrow as it rests against the chicken coop and the rain bathes the wheelbarrow like an agrarian version of blessed holy water.

To me, it is the ideal of poetry, which should contemplate life, human interaction, and the complexities of our existence, like a pale imitation of faith and the spiritual journey. If that is the purpose of poetry, then “The Red Wheelbarrow” is indeed a poem and not merely a flowery sentence.

As a Christian, I am that red wheelbarrow, overused at times, underused at times, and sometimes used for fun and frolic. Many times, I feel like I am overworked by the Master. I want to cry out, “Can’t I just go back over there by the chicken coop and rest a bit? Lord, aren’t you driving me a bit too hard?”

Then, I sometimes feel abandoned. Like the wheelbarrow, I am propped up beside a chicken coop and left to wait and wait, as the rainwater drizzles down and the chickens peck at the ground. The dog days of summer stretch out before me, and I long for Jesus to take me for a joyride, letting some small child climb aboard, feet dangling as she throws back her head in laughter and the Master takes us both for a spin around the farm. I am happy to be used in this way. And the opportunities seem all too rare.

That is how it has been for me these last two years since my conversion. At times I am at rest – so much time to sit and reflect, time to contemplate God, my faith, and my purpose. But in those moments, I’ve often felt forgotten and even wondered if I would ever be used again for His service.

Other times, like now, I enter seasons in which I feel overworked – rushed about and pushed to the brink of my ability. I look back to the seasons of quiet contemplation, and I remember those days of rest with longing.

When I am most exhausted by seasons of active labor or feel forgotten in seasons of quiet contemplation, I am surprised and delighted when the Master decides that work and rest can wait. I can almost see the Master as He gently calls to me and says let’s do something else for awhile. Let’s have a little fun. I smile as He lifts a small child up and places her in my care, and we go for a joyride.

I hear the child’s laughter, and I am glad that so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow. So much depends on letting God use me in His way and in the timing of His great design. And that is the poetry of belonging to Him and submitting to His perfect will. That is the way my little life is transformed into God’s poetry.


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