Updated: Aug 27, 2019
I had a dream last night. I was sitting at a massive farmhouse table, surrounded by young women, teens maybe, and young adults, or maybe both. And there was brokenness at this table. I knew some of the stories, and I’d seen the scars. The pain was deep. I was trying to say something, and I knew it was important, although now, awake, I can’t remember the exact phrase. Something like, His beauty will save you, and as soon as I said it, the girl on my left, the one whose scars crisscrossed her legs, broke into sobs, weeping and wailing. I knew, in my dream, these were the tears of one whose healing would come. And then I woke up.
Poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.*
I watched The Dead Poets Society earlier this week. Maybe this was the source of my dream. I don’t know. It’s one of Luke’s favorites. He said so the weekend he was home with Ali, and we all sat on the deck chatting after breakfast. We went around the table and talked about our favorite movies, and I put August Rush in my top five. It’s Robin Williams, too, which of course is bittersweet. I thought then, and maybe said it out loud, I should go back and watch them. It’s been a while. The Dead Poets released the summer before I was married, and I’m not really sure if I’ve seen it since. And then a few days ago, after work, I stopped by the public library to pick up a book, glanced at a display with this month’s features, and there it was, on DVD. A timely reminder.
And the movie is SO Luke. Captain, oh my Captain, and wouldn’t he love to be one of those students. Or maybe it’s the teacher he’s destined to be.
Or maybe the teacher is me.
That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.*
I think I missed this the first time watching. I was Luke’s age probably, or a year or so younger. Relating, most likely, to the too-good kid, scared to death of being in trouble. Not enough freedom to be the poet. But now. Now I’m fifty years old, and I wonder sometimes if I’ve ever been this much child. This free to be.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking. If I ever got a tattoo, I know what I’d want. Not that I’ll do it. My mom would be horrified, my husband probably, too. But lately it’s been the talk of my boys, so it’s got me wondering. What I’d get if I did it. Poiema. That’s it. That beautiful word. I am His poem. This prayer on my lips as I start each morning. “I am your handiwork (your poiema) – created in Christ Jesus, to do the work you’ve prepared me to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.*
And I know this passion. Two years ago in October I was in California, with a team from my church, and I had an experience that wrecked me in the sweetest way. I’ve probably written of it before. We were at this conference and a seminary professor described three types of ministers. Three perspectives of pastors and teachers, and I’d never heard it this way before. Strategic, Relational, and Symbolic. The first two seemed obvious, but the third was new, and it awakened something in me. The symbolic minister cherishes story and beauty. And the way the professor described it was so true of me, I was completely undone. The next hour, alone on a bench in a prayer garden, of all places, and I couldn’t stop crying, repeating, “Thank you, God, thank you,” because somehow He’d helped me to see who I was.
So earlier this week I watched this movie and it all comes back. This sense of purpose. Poiema. “Artfully made.” It was this scene where the teacher, Keating, sees the potential in this terrified kid, and he won’t let the boy go until the poem inside him finally erupts. And it’s a movie, I know, but I could do this. I know it. I was meant to do this. The teacher in me.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
And so I pray and I wonder. What will my verse be?
*Quotes from The Dead Poets Society; “That you are here…” is from a poem by Walt Whitman