Jazz is blaring in the background, the coffee cup has been drained, and I’m sitting in the window at Javasti’s sitting across from a man whose name I know, but we rarely speak. Who knows why? There’s a baby that screeches from time to time, and the quiet hum of the place has been replaced with the energized chatter of a full bevy of people looking for a place to sit. I battle back the guilt over taking a space for so long, but it will soon get the better of me, and I’ll have to get up and head home for no other reason than a distressed patron needs to sit.
It’s my Sabbath day. I don’t have time for a Sabbath, work and home repairs being what they are. But I am taking one anyway. They are becoming more and more important to me as declarations of trust, that no matter the pressure, I will pause and rest and take delight in the good things of God, reflecting on what He is doing and has done, giving whatever results to life might be coming to Him. There’s lots to be concerned about, a fair amount of hand-wringing is probably in order, but somehow, my hands just won’t do it.
Instead, I’m thinking about prayer. Praying, too, I guess, but really just letting my inner life resonate with the complexities of the world. I’m reading Breaking the Alabaster Jar, a series of interviews with Li-Young Lee, a tremendous poet of faith, and as he talked about the intuitive process by which poems come to him, I could not help but think of how open we need to be to what is happening around us. Lee believes to be the poet he wants to be, he must change and live as the person he wants to be. As if not only his poetry, but the life behind it, the life that is calling to him through his poetry, demands that he change in order to receive it. Sounds as if he thinks poetry is a divine thing, talking as he does about it in much the same terms as we talk about receiving Christ. But if you understand incarnation, then you understand that perhaps receiving Christ and receiving a poem are not very far apart. Both require open hearts and the quietness of soul that can allow itself time to apprehend the gift when it comes.
The language of “receiving Christ” sounds strange in my ears, a version of the sinner’s prayer which in my heritage has always been suspect simply because it has no precedent in scripture. And yet, the notion of receiving the Christ is absolutely fundamental to a deep walk with Him, with life, with poetry, and with beauty. We must have open hands.
Click here for three poems by Li-Young Lee…