A Person’s a Person

sneetches4-2bxxd4z_categoryAt the time this goes to print, I am substituting for our 6th grade English teacher during her after-lunch period. Needless to say, I am seated at a desk covered with brightly-colored supplies, trays full of classwork, and a beautiful, stately globe.

I am also surrounded by a wriggling bundle of 11-year-olds.

As they fidget, giggle, or pray frantically that God will intervene and provide them the right answer on their vocabulary quiz, I watch as they hurriedly scribble down their responses with determination and delicate care. Some twiddle their pencils, some bite their lips, and some (inevitably) need to go to the bathroom.

Yet, it is not the nervous energy and dangling legs that strikes me. It is the slow realization that I am in the company of a violinist, a lawyer, an insurance agent, a CEO, an actress, an Olympic gold-medalist, a deacon, a coach, a senator, a mother of four, and a city planner. These untied shoelaces and awkward braces adorn the feet and faces of the future, a brave new world that has yet to take form.

I am reminded of Dr. Seuss’ wonderful line from Horton Hears a Who:

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Perhaps now, more than ever, such a truth must be recalled and placed center stage in our culture, particularly given the horrendous onslaught of abortion statistics and the CMP videos. However, we must also turn our attention to the positive affirmation behind Seuss’ line. We are in the business of raising a generation of men and women, little persons, who are destined to pick up our torches and carry on with our different tasks, passions, and missions. Like the steady corrosion of Ozymandias’ visage, we are limited to a mere season of influence and opportunity; these little ones will one day pass by our monuments, and the Earth will continue to orbit the sun long after we have gone.

What matters is how we pay the right sort of attention to these people and train them up in the way they should go. And that certainly does not mean we ignore them or indulge them. A person’s a person. We must challenge, discipline, encourage, instruct, support, and inspire them. They are people, called to the work of the LORD, a work that will progress long after we have drawn our last breaths. Let the coal touch their lips and send them into this wide, wide world full of passion and adventure.

Oh, the places they’ll go.

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The Poetry of God

downloadIn Ephesians 2, Paul declares that we as Christians are the “workmanship of God”:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

Interestingly, just a verse earlier, Paul reminds us of the sobering reality that we are saved by grace through the gift of faith, not the strength of our own theological prowess or pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps, “can-do” optimism. There is no amount of self-help literature, meditative yoga, or American patriotism that can yank us out of the muck of our depravity. We are just plain sunk. Apart from him I can do nothing (John 15:5).

So how are we to read this declaration that we are God’s workmanship? If all the good in us comes from grace, what does this identity mean? Are we valuable? As Joe Rigney once said, “I know God loves me, but does He like me?”

It’s notable that the Greek word rendered as “workmanship” here in Ephesians is poiema, from which we can clearly see our English word poem. When Paul encourages the church at Ephesus that they are “God’s poiema” created “in Christ Jesus”, we must recall what the Apostle John called Christ at the beginning of his gospel: the Word (“In the beginning was the Word…“).

So, quite truly and wondrously, we are the poetry of God created by the Word of God. We are His poiema created in Christ Jesus for good works. One cannot help but remember the glorious image of the great lion Aslan, singing all of Narnia into existence, creating from nothing the majestic symphony of space, the living splash of Nature’s color, the taste of golden water and the scent of purple skylines. All of creation, with man and woman as its crown jewels, is woven together into a grand and passionately wild poem by the even grander and wilder God who penned it. The ink of God’s poetic effort is the living and breathing dreams and glories of man. We are God’s poiema created in Christ Jesus. Majesty upon majesty.

As David wrote in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.”

The poetry of God flames out through all the earth. Observe the fullness of His glory as it is declared in this passage: the sun comes out like a bridegroom, coming for his bride, running his course with joy. Every sunrise, then, is a beautiful picture of the Great Bridegroom pursuing His bride down the cosmic aisle of the skies and clouds, chasing after her well into the night (as every groom ought).

As Victorian poet Gerard Manly Hopkins puts it:

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God / It will flame out like shining from shook foil”

All of creation is charged with God’s grandeur, an electric livewire coursing deep into our veins. We are not a dull, lifeless poem, stuck in the pages of a bedraggled, spine-torn anthology in my English classroom. We are a living, spoken, adrenaline-pumping poem uttered by the very breath of God. We are His workmanship, His craft, the diamonds carved from coal, man from dust, woman from bone.

So, yes. God likes us. We are His poem. God passionately pursues us and love us because we are crafted by His hands and His Word, made in His very image. We are the clay of a dedicated, careful Potter. We are the rhymes and notes of a marvelous Poet. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. May we learn to live this way.

As Doug Wilson once noted, it is no wonder the first recorded words of human history were poetry: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).