Background: 3 weeks ago I put a call out on Instagram for followers to send me any stories they would like me to put into poetry. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Within days, my inbox was filling up with heart-wrenching stories including clergy suicide attempts, messy divorces, foster parenting autistic children, abortion, infertility, infidelity, PTSD, partner longings, chronic fatigue, and ostracisation in churches for being in a wheelchair or gay. Some poems weren’t published and went directly to the requesters, including a funeral poem for a dear 66 year old man who died from COVID. [sigh]
These are my three big takeaways:
- No one is immune to loss
Every day that passes, is a day gone. Those days may contain life-giving or traumatic experiences. Kate Bowler suggests life a chronic condition. In many ways, I think it is. Jesus said, ‘In this world, you will have trouble… but take heart, I have overcome!’ We all live on the developing edge of loss and possibility. Slowly befriending uncertainty and learning to live with loss, pain and suffering can assist our mental health. If we cannot integrate these things into our worldview or personal theology, we will find unhealthy ways to cope.
- Poetry gives people permission to feel seen.
Poetry is a profound purveyor of pain. It is the leading language of lament. It is a great holder of hope. A divine gift of healing to the heart. The more poetry I write and read, the more place I see it has in the world. I am not surprised more than a quarter of the canonised Christian scriptures are, in fact, poetry. More than prose or information, poetry has an ability to make people feel seen – and as Dr Curt Thompson says, we’re all brought into the world looking for someone that is looking for us, and we never stop searching. Solutions are in abundance today. But poetry seldom offers solutions. Certainty is sold from pulpits most Sunday. But what do you say of a God who meets you in the darkest desert hour of despair? Answer: You echo Hagar’s words ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’. I believe, being seen, is a precursor to reconciliation. And poetry grants our hearts this permission.
- The World needs Highly Sensitive and Empathetic Men
Perhaps now more than ever, with such large-scale loss reminding us of how fragile we all are, we need the emotionally integrated, conscientious and sensitive men of the world to step up. Several years ago I interviewed Dr Ted Zeff, a world leading psychologist on raising highly sensitive boys. He noted how different cultures treat boys and men with these traits. In some cases they are esteemed (e.g. parts of Asia), in other areas (e.g. the West) they are seen as weak or soft. Yet, 15-20% of men have a nervous system that is wired this way. As I mention in my last book, I am HSP and highly empathetic. It is why I’ve been able to enter into peoples stories through poetry, letting them know they are seen and not alone. I agree with Dr. Elaine Aron: Highly Sensitive People must be given greater recognition in the West as the Priestly Advisors they are, whispering their wisdom of gentleness and care to the zealous and battle-weary Warrior Kings of the world… so we can all survive to live another day.
I will be taking a small break from the daily requests to reset. These superpowers are mine to manage 😉 The instagram inbox is still open for anyone who wants to message me. @david_tensen