On Words & Spirit
Writing, the intensely personal place where we meet our muse, is mysterious.
I have been contemplating where I have met the muse I seek: the Holy Spirit, the author of scripture and the Poet capable of translating even those groanings that cannot be uttered. I have no delusions of adding my poems to the canon, but even so–at times I know that the words, the images, the emotion I feel have been given to me, entrusted to me that I might pour them back out to the glory of Jesus Christ. Humbly Lord I beg that this be true. With that said, what words can I write that are fit to give to Him?
Surely the writer of the Song of Songs paused to find the word, deliberated over the image appearing and repeating from his tongue, going over in detail the interplay of the many voices that sing out. Yet the anguish and joy of a psalmist often seem only moments old, spoken aloud as the wind rushed by his or her face and captured for eternity. Which poem is more true–which is more fit to offer? What then of our songs, and of our psalms? How does the Spirit guide us?
If poems are a structure, built and re-built to accommodate a poet’s thoughts and words, then I have been an architect at times. The Spirit whispers a foundation to me, and I carry it softly on the empty page of my notebook to a quiet place. I build and shape up the words before me. Some words stay and others are left behind. I pause for a time to collect materials, I move on to other work, but I always return to that first touch of inspiration and lovingly attempt to recreate in words that nameless calling tugging at my soul. These poems grow with me, speak profoundly to my own spirit and hopefully to others, calling out in quiet perfection (or nearly so) as a monument, a completion of that first breath.
Other structures I have built sit lifeless on the barren ground. I have toiled in vain, relying only on the raw materials. If the Spirit is silent, what else shall I do?
If poems are a compulsion, a necessary rush of thoughts and words that no structure can hold back, then I have been the floodgate. The Spirit roars, and words pour out. I scramble for a pen, a crayon, a receipt, a napkin. It gushes and groans around the corners of the page, burning in my pocket as I rush to that same notebook, pushing all else aside. Then the ribbon unfurls, the words fill line after line after line and glow with holy breathlessness. These poems, rare as they are, shine light into my soul at the very remembrance of the wellspring.
Though should I read it again in a drier time, or should you read it–perhaps we would both prefer the cleaner structures from before.
I wonder which of these–the structure or the compulsion–Jesus prefers to read?
And what if we cannot write at all? Some times I feel the pit, the pull, the need, and then I slam my fist on a blank page. The Spirit completely silent; the Presence so near. These tools–my head and my words–too dull to spill what should be said.
We writers are called by the Spirit to put into words what cannot be said in words, and it is a mysterious calling. The Spirit who guides us takes us down many paths, toward blueprints and cliff faces, toward ecstasy and solitude, toward quiet, brilliant, holy, helpless breaths.
Throughout it all, Christ the Wordless calls us forward, away from the pit, toward the empty page.
Ken Welborn is a teacher in Lakeland, Florida. He is unpublished, but hopeful. He and his wife volunteer locally with Young Life.