The Darkness, The Dove, and The Daybreak

A dove is nesting near the stairs in the apartment building where I live.

Doves have long captured my attention. When I was a boy, doves would often nest in a hanging basket in the backyard of our house. From the back door, you could see them clearly, and you could hear them cooing during the day as you moved throughout the house. The doves always seemed so gentle, so peaceful, so patient as we watched them. I’m sure our presence made them nervous, but they remained fixed in spite of our movement.

As I passed the dove the other day, I noticed an egg next to her in the nest, a small sign of new life. At the close of a month filled with murder, mourning, and madness, a month when the world seemed to be coming undone all around us, the sight of this dove and her egg were a relief to my weary heart, a reminder that all is not lost. In a world steeped in death and darkness, new life still springs forth.

The scene reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur” (see the link to the poem below). Hopkins begins his poem with a captivating assertion: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” The grandeur of God goes largely unnoticed, however. Men do not heed him, do not seem to respect his good creation. The constant plodding of the generations has desensitized us, wearing on our souls as well as on the earth itself. Hopkins recognizes that a world of grandeur has grown almost dreary. It isn’t difficult to understand his point. Our world feels hopelessly lost. We feel hopelessly lost.

But Hopkins finds hope in this world as well. “And for all this,” he writes, “nature is never spent.” No sear, blear, smear, smudge, or smell can kill the freshness of the Lord’s world. Every nightfall is soon followed by a daybreak. The Lord remains at work, bringing life and light to our death and darkness.

Admittedly, the death and the dark seem unconquerable at times. When our news feeds are filled with injustice after injustice, when our homes are invaded by sickness and sorrow, and when our souls are shaken by chaos and storm, we can lose sight of “the dearest freshness deep down things.” But, like the dove, “the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.” God has not forsaken his creation. The promise of redemption still stands. “The light shines in the darkness,” John writes, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). In spite of all appearances to the contrary, the daybreak will come.


Read the full poem here.

Past Midnight

Past midnight, pen in hand and mind awake.
I write line one but draw a blank at two,
Unsure of what to do.
Imagination bade me start to make
This brief display of words, but I must do
Some work to see it through.

Not ev’ry line is given.
Directed, but not driven.

But so it is with you.
You work in us to will and work yet do
Not call us to inaction. We must take
Our crosses, follow you,
And trust when we can’t see because you do.
And you will ne’er forget, fail, nor forsake.


Photo by Lukas Robertson on Unsplash

Verbal Camouflage

Verbal camouflage: the art of saying enough to blend in but not enough to stand out from any conversation where you don’t know the subject matter well.

I like to think I’m pretty well versed in this type of speech. For example, I know just enough about sports to blend into an average conversation. With my limited arsenal of roughly one to five facts or anecdotes per popular sport, I can sort of follow a conversation, insert a comment when relevant, and make it through the discussion without my ignorance showing too clearly. As a bonus, if I can maintain my cover long enough, I can sometimes pick up an additional bit of info I can use in a later conversation. If all goes well, nobody knows how little I actually understand.

Verbal camouflage works for many subjects: sports, coffee, fashion, politics, music, internet controversies, etc. The practice can work in at least two ways. The first way is the way of humility. Stay silent, listen well, and learn. The goal here isn’t to appear more knowledgeable or to hide our true selves (most of my friends recognize how little I know about most things). Rather, the goal is to learn without distracting from ongoing conversations.

The second way is the way of pride. Here, we try to share what we know in order to look better in the eyes of those around us. We attempt to bluff our way to acceptance, hiding our weakness behind a mask of knowledge. Maybe we’re afraid our ignorance would deny us friends or would keep us from the circles we want to inhabit. Maybe we’re just insecure with our limits. For whatever reason, however, we choose talking over listening, assuming rather than learning. Sadly, we can sometimes get away with it. Sadder still, we sometimes try this approach with God.

I’m learning that we can’t fake things with him, though. I may know the right words to say to convince a friend I’m doing alright. I might be able to fake my way through a conversation about spirituality. But I can’t do such things with God. He knows my heart better than I do. He sees my weakness, my ignorance, my pride, my insecurity. He sees where I’m falling short in my love and my obedience. He sees it all. And while I may be able to hide from others, I can’t hide from him. If I sing about surrender or pray about dependence, he knows whether or not I really mean it.

Thankfully, God gives mercy and grace in great abundance. He reveals my ignorance, my weakness, and my need of him, and he meets me with instruction, strength, and help. He disciplines me for my good, convicting me of sinful ways and leading me in righteous ways. He provides, protects, and keeps his promises. I am weak. He is strong.

I’m trying to be more open before him, more sensitive to his Spirit, more humble in my walk. I’m beginning to learn, slowly, where before I would assume knowledge and speak hastily. I’m beginning to grow, slowly, as I learn to trust him more. I’m beginning to operate with a better understanding of my limits, looking to him for help. I’m not good at any of these things, but, by his grace, I think I’m getting better. And I pray he is pleased with me.


Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

God’s Grandeur Considered

As Hopkins saw, your grandeur does not pale,
Does not diminish though we sin and stain
Ourselves and earth. We work in pride and pain.
And through it all, your purposes prevail.
How can it be that we, so foul and frail,
Do not exhaust your grace? For grass and grain
And goodness still persist. You give us rain
And wrap us in provision. Though we fail
To follow, you forgive and give us love,
Your character conveyed in ev’ry sign
And ev’ry word, a freshness undefiled.
Decay, despair, and death touch not the dove
Who brings in darkness brightness so divine
And choicest comforts for the fearful child.


This poem was inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur,” drawing on some of his themes and imagery and asking some further questions.

Photo by Tyssul Patel on Unsplash

Comparison, Come to Kill Again

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Comparison, come to kill again, quick
To cripple, curse, cry foul, foment, and feed
Confusion till desire seems more like need.
God’s grace grows grey, his manna makes me sick
Even as it sustains me. Still I stick
Stock in distinctions, hear his call but heed
Too my brother’s call. He blossoms. I bleed.
Truth bids me trust. I tremble and cry, “Trick!”

Dethrone, O God, the god of my making,
Myself as ultimate, false comfort, chief
Of my affections choking out true love,
Unlovely leech of joy. Set to breaking
My false assumptions and restore belief
In your good will and all my lot thereof.


Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

The God of Peace

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The topics of peace and division have been on my mind lately. In part, this is due to some of my research along those lines this semester (see last week’s post for more on that). But the themes are present outside of the classroom as well. Online interactions show us that division is prevalent in our world, and the bitterness with which people divide makes peace seen almost a myth. And sadly, the church isn’t immune from such struggles to live in unity.

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Healing

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I have watched this wound heal for a week or so.
Day to day, I do not detect
movement of skin,
change of shape,
decrease of pain.
Then one day, I do.
The gap is less wide, the depth less deep.
All around,
dead skin darkens,
new skin appears.
It is not finished. It is still sore.
I wanted the process to be faster.
Nevertheless, the process is working.
Healing is occurring.
He is mending,
slowly
but surely.
Perhaps the same is true of my heart.


Photo by lee Scott on Unsplash