Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

2/22/08

Imaging God: Ars est celare artem. (poem)

As a poet who is a Christian often writing with faith-related themes, I have found it a greater challenge to present an image of God than to describe human love. Both require elusive metaphors that themselves are metaphors, but God is something vaster than any metaphor. God has not concealed Himself in the way a peanut is hidden under a shell, but, at the same time, what does He look like? Who has seen His face and lived? Still, Psalm 105:4 tells us to seek His face.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
--New American Standard Bible
Below is a poem trying to sort out that question of imaging God. How to say something eternal with finite words, without heresy or mistake? And, secondly, how to retain the art of poetry, or any art, by avoiding cliché and trivializing God? Inevitably, I will endure the ever-present artistic-faith struggle, one I expect to fail continually until I am in Heaven, then catching a glimpse of the Living Father.

Imaging God
Ars est celare artem.

Imaging God
requires my best clichés:

the old soup kitchen woman,
the disheveled Russian Jew
all babushkaed and bundled
with wrinkled thoughts peeking
from her tattered shawl;

an act of grace from a pastoral looking priest,
scorning with the beginning
of a smile at a grimaced boy whose baseball
and Norman Rockwell predicament
broke the stain glass window;

an older couple clearly matrimonied,
still in love sitting, wrapped together in a rumpled blanket
on a worn Grant Park bench,
unnoticed by Sunday afternoon crowds,
feeding pigeons pleading for attention;

a silent child watching at dusk for
coming stars and sunsets, and other heavenly things,
filled with chiaroscuroed thoughts of the maker and the made,
clarified and distinct with horizon-cum-boundary,
all silhouetted in new moonlight, half as bright as the Bethlehem star—

no images of God are true without a manger, sheep and baby,
all babushkaed like the Jewish woman,
and I should strain to mention
a bloody Cross or empty grave, a stigmataed man,
fish, loaves, chariots and horsemen.

I’d repeat ‘love,’ ‘passion,’
‘sacrifice,’ ‘agape,’ ‘Messiah,’
‘Christ,’ ‘Father,’ and ‘resurrection,’
rambling with ordinary and overused verbiage,
the vocabulary of a Christmas card impresario.

The liars would then grind my words, my pictures,
the syllables still fresh and the symbols still warm
and say, “God is different,”
“Heaven has no image,”
“Man can’t pretend he sees God.”

What God has seen is the Lord’s own pretension;
we are from His love concocted,
becoming all that He imagined, in His image.
My failing could only be not
to bring a newer color of God to their fallen eye.
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