Liner Notes: Somewhere deep in my past, there’s a long trail of really bad poetry with my name attached to it. As an angsty late adolescent, I found poems to be reliable forms of self-expression. There was something about their structured rhythms and rhymes that made me feel safe to explore my feelings regarding faith, love, and the meaning of life.
For nearly two decades, I gave up on trying to write poetry – partly because I realized how awful my previous attempts were, and partly because it didn’t seem like the most practical mode of communication. But now that I’m a little bit older and a whole lot more at home with the world of minimalism and ambiguity that poetry often inhabits, I’ve started tinkering again with some fresh (but still pathetically amateurish) experiments in verse.
This is the first one I’ve actually finished, and it’s a foray into the utter strangeness of being a former pastor who no longer attends church. I’ve written at length about my spiritual journey already, but I wanted to try to capture the emotional landscape of that transition in a more economical form than I have before.
At one level, this poem was simply an assignment I gave myself to sharpen and refine my own writing. It’s easy for me to get in a rut, relying on the same old vocabulary. And it’s even easer to hide behind verbosity, resorting to an excess of words. In light of that, the self-imposed boundaries of a poem forces me to choose words more carefully and decide what needs to be said and what doesn’t. I’m not trying to be a poet. I’m just trying to be more intentional about my writing decisions.
At a deeper level, however, this poem is a heartfelt response to anyone who assumes that leaving church is the same thing as losing faith. For many of us who aren’t in the pews on Sunday mornings, there’s still plenty in the world to stir our hearts and fill us with mystery. Whether it’s nature, food, music, sex, art, friendships, exercise, or a hundred other things, the light of divine presence still shines brightly outside the organized church. Yes, our Sundays—and our faith expressions as a whole—may look vastly different than they used to. But there is so much robust spirituality to be enjoyed in a life of attentiveness and gratitude. I hope this can celebrate that.
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