Poet and novelist, James Dickey, in an essay titled “How to Enjoy Poetry,” suggests a way for neophyte interpreters to begin their encounter with the word:
As for me, I like the sun, the source of all living things, and on certain days very good-feeling, too. ‘Start with the sun,’ D. H. Lawrence said, ‘and everything will slowly, slowly happen.’ Good advice. And a lot will happen.
What is more fascinating than a rock, if you really feel it and look at it, or more interesting than a leaf?
Horses, I mean; butterflies, whales;
Mosses, and stars; and gravelly
Rivers, and fruit.
Oceans, I mean; black valleys; corn;
Brambles, and cliffs; rock, dirt, dust, ice …
Go back and read this list — it is quite a list, Mark Van Doren’s list! — item by item. Slowly. Let each of these things call up an image out of your own life.
Think and feel. What moss do you see? Which horse? What field of corn? What brambles are your brambles? Which river is most yours?
Perhaps there would be some merit to approaching the poetry of God with a similar injection of ourselves into the Word? Think and feel.
The Story of the Lost Son Luke 15:11-32 The Message (MSG)
Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’ “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.
That brought him to his senses.
Ahhh…, isn’t that what an experience of God does; brings us back to our senses, all of them? Think about it. Use the imagination that God gifted you with to enter into the story through one of the familiar closet doorways of your life. Get in touch with that memory tucked haphazardly in the recesses of your soul perhaps smothered under far too many similar memories.
You remember: Your father, or your mother, or both, giving you, what my family called “the stink eye,” a withering glance of disgust as a response to a request or action or inaction that you thought entirely reasonable.
The son told his father that he wanted his inheritance now! In the culture of the time the son basically told his father, “Dad, you’re dead to me.”
Can you feel it? The pain? To everyone’s essence?
Explore the Word further; it is much more than waking up knee deep in it and recognizing that life is just not what you expected. Yes, it is about the son. It is also about the parent, and the older sibling, and it is that residual piece of each of them that resides in you as a reflection of loss or guilt or shame or jealousy.
More to the point, it is the recognition that any and all of the potential soul destroying moments of your story are rendered impotent because God simply loves you and accepts you and desires to be a part of you. God simply wants you to think, and feel, and come to your senses.
—Pastor Chuck Kelsey, Journey UCC Church in Coralville, IA