When I Look Back

When I look back, I do not see successes.
At least, I do not see them easily.
Instead, I see a mind that second-guesses
And find that failure fits more feasibly.
When I look back, I do not see your mercies,
Or seeing them, still feel they are not true.
All good seems covered up in controversies,
In all the ways I failed and still fail you.
When I look back, I see the circumstances
That roll like waves across a wind-swept sea.
I do not see the Son, the second-chances,
The grace that still abounds for those like me.
When I look back, I must distrust the lies
That claim truth is determined by my eyes.


Photo by Will Swann on Unsplash

Untitled, March 25, 2021

I fear you are a disappointed Father,
For I am just an ever-failing son.
My life should be a blessing, not a bother.
I should be held together, not undone.

O Lord, correct my misconceptions of you
And all my misconceptions of myself.
Help me to truly know you and to love you
And in so doing know and love myself.


Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I remember feeling off the morning I originally posted this poem. I went for a run to try to shake the feeling, but it wouldn’t fade. I thought I needed to take the poem down, so I did, then I didn’t post on the blog again until July 22, 2022, over a year later.

Shortly after I started posting again, I started thinking about finding this poem and sharing it. Now that I know it was OCD leading me to take it down initially, I feel free to share it. And as I read it now, I see two things of interest. First, I see a snapshot of my mind and heart in the early stages of an OCD flareup. I’d already hurt and confused some friends, and I was struggling to make sense of life in the midst of a difficult and busy season. While this was not written during the worst of my experiences, the first stanza here captures my thoughts and feelings during the struggle pretty well.

Second, I see a prayer that I believe God has answered, one that he’s continuing to answer as I continue to learn and grow in my walk with him. While things would get worse before they got better, God used the journey to reveal some underlying issues that needed to be addressed. He was at work through the entire season, and through the processing and work done with a mentor, he’s taught me more about himself and about myself. I believe I now can recognize many of the misconceptions about God and about myself that I lived with for years, and I now believe I can better know and love him and myself. I think God’s answered this prayer in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I wrote it.

When I read this poem, I see evidence of God’s grace. He saw me at my worst. He heard my prayer. He delivered me. This is the story told by all who know him, the story presented in the Bible and echoing on for all eternity. The Lord saves. Blessed be his name.

Wants

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We want but are not satisfied in gain,
And so we gain new wants to add to old.
This futile journey is an old refrain
Of wants too weak to trust the Story told.
“Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee,”
The saint once wrote, and still his words resound.
They ring from Africa across the sea,
True both on foreign and familiar ground.
For we were wrought to reckon with our ends,
To know the purpose t’ward which passion points:
Temp’ral desires call for that which transcends;
What leads to life divides marrow and joints.
O LORD, align our wanting with your will,
And turn our hearts to you and so fulfill.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The quoted line above refers to a line from Augustine’s Confessions.

Perspective and Provision

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Frustrated by my failure to perceive
The movement of the invisible one
Whose work, though purposeful, leaves me undone
Till no one save the Savior can relieve
The longing my soul feels to find its home.
I both believe and struggle to believe
That hope endures because of heaven’s Son,
That fears will fade, that victory is won;
And in this moment, I cannot conceive
How this cross leads beyond a catacomb.
I see I am shortsighted, prone to think
No sign of water means no future drink.
Such circumstances hold a hollow taunt.
God is my shepherd. I shall never want.


Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Fear and Trembling and Faith

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Søren Kierkegaard used to intimidate me. In truth, he still does. He’s a daunting figure, both prolific in output and profound in thought. I viewed him as part of an undefined group of unapproachables, authors whose work lies beyond the scope of my ability to comprehend. But one of the joys of research is that you get to engage formidable thinkers and grapple with their work, approaching the unapproachables to learn their secrets. This semester, I spent some time researching Kierkegaard’s thought surrounding his book Fear and Trembling, and I was indeed challenged academically. However, the more I studied, the more I found myself challenged spiritually as well.

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Three Days

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Remember now the darkness of those three long days before
The dawning of the day of resurrection,
For few have felt the fear of thinking God had lost the war.
The shadow of his people’s insurrection
Now loomed across the future. Now our hope seemed spent and slain.
The light of life appeared to be extinguished.
The ones who sang his praises now in shock sang no refrain.
His life, howe’er, was willingly relinquished.
What seemed to be a sure defeat was fixed before the fall.
The devil’s darkest scheme was his undoing.
As Christ was lifted up, he drew all men to heed his call.
He drained the cup of wrath our sin was brewing.
The bitter silence of that Sabbath day must have been great.
Unheard, Satan’s presumpt’ous celebration.
When was it Satan realized the cross had sealed his fate?
The slaughtered lamb became our faith’s foundation.
We now look back in wonder at this work in history
And sing with joy to God who reigns eternal.
The cornerstone came forth again in holy victory
O’er ev’ry sin, the mean and the infernal.
The resurrection of the Son secured our joy and peace.
No enemy can sabotage or sever
Us from the Father’s love. In him, sin’s slavery must cease.
Sing praise, his people, now and to forever.


Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash

Prayer for Humility

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Let them know me not for my mind
Or my manners. Keep from them all
Tendency to love my name (kind
Flattery). Their praise is my fall,
For I know my heart enough to
Predict its vain response. They call
For me, and I shamefully do
All that I can to earn their awe.
I must decrease. I must decrease,
For I, though only briefly, saw
Your glory. Arrogance must cease,
For you alone warrant all fear
And worship. You who dwell above
Creation yet art ever near,
You meet us with your perfect love.
I am undone. Let me then be
A humble vessel. Let my boast
Be only of your grace to me.
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
This clay can claim no title. You
Alone are worthy. Let all eyes
That look on me always see through
And your great glory recognize.
Be evident in all I do.


Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Poetry


The gospel is the poetry of truth,
For in it love and beauty condescend
From heav’n above to take the form of youth:
A righteous life to cover those who sinned.
Redemption’s plan was fixed before the fall.
The father, through his prophets, has foretold
The coming of the king who sounds the call
To all who under sin and death are sold.
Twas at the proper time and proper place
The son himself engaged man’s greatest foe,
And by his death the dead were made alive.
Alive again, the word of love and grace
Inaugurates his kingdom here below,
And all who know him evermore shall thrive.