Wanted to add something pursuant to the New Romanticism issue I introduced in a prior post. In that post I referenced a “poetic faith” that opposes what I’ll refer to as “theological” or “modern” faith. Theology certainly has its place and this is absolutely not an attempt to diminish its import or relevance. But I would hasten to add that poetic faith does run somewhat counter, if not antithetical, to a systematic or formulaic faith that relies on logic or conditions.
Throughout a large portion of my life I relied on an academic or “systematic” approach to most things. If I could just get the facts right, I thought, the rest would be easy. So I set out to learn as much as I could—graduate school, seminary, business school. Reading book after book after book. If there was something I didn’t know I just figured there would be a book somewhere from which I could pick it up. But somewhere along the way I broke down. What I learned was that I had used the pursuit of facts to keep reality at a comfortable distance. In some way, it was a way to insulate or protect myself.
Moreover, I concluded that facts are easy. Knowledge, really, is easy. Facts make sense. Facts never let you down. They don’t change. They don’t require anything of you. This doesn’t mean that facts are unimportant. What is difficult, on the other hand, is dealing with the life and the reality—the mess—that’s in front of us.
My pursuit of knowledge came very close to killing my heart—the seat of emotion. To this day I remain a recovering Fact Seeker. It’s still one of my comfort zones and remains one of first defaults. Why wouldn’t it. The smartest people in the room are usually the most recognized. The practice spilled over into my relationship with God, too. But God is not a math problem to be solved. Rather, He is a mystery to be enjoyed.
A poetic faith doesn’t kill the heart. It fosters an internal environment that allows your heart to come alive. Instead of deconstructing truth to its smallest parts, a poetic faith encompasses so much more. Poetic faith embraces all the mysteries, strange paradigms, and intrigue a sincere spiritual pilgrimage has to offer. It is a “feeling” faith. It takes into account the gamut of the human condition: our joys, our brokenness, our victories, and defeats. A poetic faith does not check-out in times of adversity, distress, or deep emotional pain. It never seeks a place to be comfortably numb. In truth, our hearts yearn for the poetic faith that liberates us into something greater than what we’ve become accustomed to; something full. Poetic faith surfaces when the heart’s demand to be heard is honored.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen lately. There’s a lyric in his song “Human Touch” that says, “You might need something to hold on to when all your answers, they don’t amount to much.” That’s pretty well put. I would add that as important as the answers are, perhaps the questions themselves are even more important. Maybe we put too much emphasis on the answers when what we seek lies in the journey itself. A poetic faith is the best guide for this sort of journey.