Have you ever considered how often we use the poetic capacities of language to minimize the severity of our shortcomings? Take the way we talk about time, for example. What do we really mean when we say that time “got away” from us or that we “ran out” of time? Does time have legs for sprinting or a mind for out-maneuvering? Is it able to be put in a container and stored for future use like rice or screws or coins?
I started writing a poem last night on the nature of time, hoping to explore this poetic-language phenomenon and post one last poem before the end of National Poetry Month (and the end of my chance to meet my goal of fifteen poems). But, alas!, before my poem reached three-stanza status, I left it to tend to more pressing matters…matters which, needless to say, grew to consume more than a couple hours. Oh yes, don’t you know that matters can “press” and “grow” and “consume”? And while we’re at it, have you thought what it would feel like to fall tall instead of fall short of a goal?
We use language in poetic ways all the time, often without realizing it. One of the delightful things about words is that they can have both spheres of meaning and layers of meaning. And while these nuances are often exploited to hide or obscure the truth, they can also be used to highlight or clarify the truth.
Tonight, the poetic phrase “running out of time” is simply reminding me that I am finite, while the expression “falling short of a goal” reminds me of Romans 3:23, which says that I “fall short” of the glory of God because I’ve sinned. And these two realities – the fact that I’m finite and a sinner – point me to Jesus. The gospel is precisely the good news that the most limited and most sinful human being can experience fullness of joy in fellowship with God through Christ.
So, when your eyes prove “bigger than your stomach” and you’re not sure whether your eyes have super-sized or your stomach has shrunk; or when you’re discouraged in your fight against sin and you begin to doubt whether the Word of God is anything like a “two-edged sword,” don’t mask reality with a poetic twist of words. Instead, humble yourself and listen…like a poet…for echos of the gospel.