The following is one of the pieces from my upcoming collection of poetry, The Cardinal Turns the Corner, titled “Passion.” Hope you enjoy it! I can’t wait to share this new book with you. For more information on the book release, read here.
I wrote this poem across the length of California,
Scrawling these ink strokes through the vineyards and the shoreline,
Even on the edges of the “H” in Hollywood.
I waltzed through the City of Angels
Tuned to an imaginary score,
Pulling up pieces of the highway and blowing them in the air.
Then I hopped on the eastbound train in an old and rusted boxcar,
Writing another line on the face of wooden crates,
Even on the metal sheets stacked against the corner.
The next night I high-fived the vampires in Denver
And dashed off another verse on a creaky traffic light
As I swung from its taut cable, my shoelaces
Reaching toward the windows of the passing cabs below.
In Dallas they saw me dance on all the tablecloths,
Kicking over glasses, scribbling on the centerpieces.
I wandered round in Nashville,
Dizzied by the neon lights,
And etched a lovely metaphor on the back of a guitar,
One where I compared love to a waning moon.
Then the wind ran wild beneath my arms in Atlanta,
The universe of skyscrapers, planets of burning light,
Offices and windows humming with breath
And watching close as I straddled the top of a limousine,
Pockets inside out, my words on every exit
Down the infinite interstate.
Well, I should tell you,
I wrote this poem all the way to your house
Where I finally lay down in the middle of the road,
Anchored the tip of my pen to your cold street,
And waited for the world to turn,
Drawing a new equator.
One for each of us.
We folded our arms around each other
As the pages of our scripts flurried like glitter
To the floor, making eights in the air,
Surrounding our slow dance between the walls of an elevator, descending
From our room to the lobby.
We couldn’t care, neither of us,
To catch a line, or even a single cue.
You just watched my eyes as I lit up all the buttons,
Resetting the clock,
Pulling you in closer as the doors begin to close.
Only now the air was softer, small enough
To hear the snare drums in my coat,
The train of bells along my sleeves,
And the electric guitar in every fingertip
As I sent my love to you.
For our laughter, yours and mine together,
Carries spectral lines, neon
And warm, as we play in this metal box that
Rises and falls like chests along this building.
Even the fog from our hurried talking
Brushes the inside of the cold window, reminding me
To engrave our initials, if for a moment,
Into the cloud that we created
Before it fades away to time
I know our evening’s slipping
Farther down the wishing water,
But still we crowd our fingers,
Intertwine them for a moment.
And in that still frame
Before the kites of our words and our laughter have risen,
I send my love to you,
And you, me,
Pulling you in closer as the doors begin to close.
In 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).