Bags of Bran


Could You Rephrase That?
September 12, 2011, 7:54 pm
Filed under: Biography

Yet another epiphany regarding the importance of poetry in the life of the Christian: I was a silent participant in a discussion where I heard a man who once was a young man say that he didn’t get poetry at all, and that it was a waste of his time. I felt a sense of shame for him, especially since he was a retired pastor. Perhaps I’ll be able to discuss it with him in the future and find out the story behind the story.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that a great bulk of the OT and a good chunk of the NT are poetry, or at least have serious proportions of poetic material in them. If the Bible contains lots of poetry, that ought to tell us something about the value of poetry for communicating truth. It seems that God Himself has an expectation that we not only value, but also understand poetry.

I certainly wouldn’t argue that poetry is easy: I’ve read parts of Paradise Lost, and on first glance, Mr. Man was lost too! My ignorance prevents me from seeing all of Milton’s connections. I also have to look up a lot of the classical references he makes because I’m not that familiar with Greek tragedy and stuff. So it’s more like work than light reading, even if the book is relatively small compared to others I’ve knocked out. Yet if Milton cannot communicate to us anymore, yea, cause our eyes to see and our hearts to feel what they ought to see and feel with respect to his subject matter, we’ve lost something. Something whose worth I am unfit to calculate.

If we’ve neglected poetry to the point that good poets (a category worth fighting about, to be sure!) can no longer speak to our leaders, how do our leaders read the Psalms, for example? If I were a leader (now there’s a bleak hypothetical) and if I became frustrated (or worse, bored) as soon as the language turned the corner from proposition to metaphor, how could I even begin to understand giant portions of God’s Word, recorded not as propositions, but as symbols and pictures?

Commentaries can only handle poetry like anatomical charts handle people. Poetry must be lived, handled, and felt. A poetic fire must burn me or warm you or give us light. A poetic wind must mess up your hair or chill our bones. A poetic thundering must reverberate in my ears. A poetic rain must water a dry, thirsty land or cause a flood. Is it real? Is the Lord our shepherd? Is the Word a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Have we passed by the field of the sluggard and received instruction?

I’ve got work to do.

A friend recommended a book, Tozer’s Christian Book of Mystical Verse. The title is scary, especially if you’ve been trained in divinity in the last 20 years, but the contents!  This book is like a museum where the priceless treasures become more valuable with handling. I think it’s around $6 from Amazon.

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