Many times, people have asked me why I write religious poetry. Whether its my writer friends asking why I would spend my time writing about God, or my church peers asking me why poetry is my choice for expressing my faith (in both its most positive and negative lights), I have always been questioned for bringing the two often separate experiences together (especially nowadays, when the submission guidelines for most journals explicitly refuse to publish religious content of any kind and religious journals will only accept work of a specific aesthetic or creed). So I enlisted the help of another religious writer, Megan L. Anderson, to help explain at least one facet of why God and Words go so great together.
Sensing God in Words
Good writing distracts us from our lives. Great writing transports us to another level of awareness entirely. Think of the last book you couldn’t put down. The one you stayed up until 2:00 a.m. reading because pausing on a cliffhanger was out of the question. The one that seeped into every conversation and observation you made until you turned the last page. The one that opened your eyes to a new dimension of ordinary life. The crucial element lies in sensory detail. While we tend to consider reading and writing intellectual activity, effective literature engages a degree of physicality as well. The greatest penned works captivate the whole self and lead us toward richer experiences of our own lives.
Writing, especially poetry, encapsulates in words sensations we don’t encounter in our day to day lives, and opens a broader range of stimulations for us to consider. As reading exposes us to a wider breadth of experiences, it also guides us into deeper understanding of God. Through our reading of not only the Bible, but poetry and prose as well, He engages every aspect of our humanity: our imaginations, intellects, relationships, and bodies.
God designed us to experience an elaborate array of sensations through which we may come to know Him more fully. We watch steam softy rise and curl from a cup of tea and it reminds us of his warmth and comfort. We take courage in God’s protection as we hear raindrops smack against thunder-rattled windows while inside we remain safe and dry. The tartness of lemonade, scent of brand new tennis balls, sharp sting of a paper cut, and every sensory encounter in between are triggers meant to call our attention to the character of God.
Scripture calls for us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). If He desires all of us – our whole selves – then doesn’t it make sense that He would reach out to us through all of our faculties, our ability to interpret words included? As readers we can access insights into the divine by considering God’s relation to the human experiences described in poetry and literature. The question is: How much of ourselves are we willing to allow God access to in return?
Megan L. Anderson is a freelance writer, focusing on writing as a ministry. Read more about how Anderson plans to meet people’s needs through writing on her website