Writing confidence lost and found: a poem called Faith

I fell into a slump. I guess it started when I gave Orchid a poem to read, and he said he didn’t understand it. It was good he told me. At first, I rationalized that he doesn’t read poetry, but soon realized that a good poem would be understandable to anyone.

I had also started contributing a poem to our church’s monthly newsletter, only no one had commented to me about it. Not even to express their surprise to know that I write. I thought either no one was reading it, or people were too polite to say they didn’t understand or like my poems.

Then there was twitter. Twitter can be cyclical in some ways. This was a slow cycle that had me feeling like I was standing on a mountaintop only to hear my own echo while the next round number stared at me, tauntingly. Like a hand grasp a centimeter out of reach.

I also write for Parentous, an India-based parenting magazine, although comments on my posts had recently subsided. Another lull.

I realized in my uncertainty, I was looking for external validation. But the problem was inside myself.

So I decided to make peace with stagnation. I asked it in for tea so we could stare patiently at each other. I decided I would stop contributing poems to the church newsletter after this month. I decided that it was okay to shout from a mountaintop. Maybe the goats will gather to listen, or maybe I would find beauty in the sound of my echo.

My personal poetry writing was another matter. I post only a few of them here, holding most of them close to me like children. Waiting for them to become of proper age. I write and re-write. Clarity comes when I evolve, and we grow up together, hand in hand, making sense of the world. Perhaps I was only writing for me. Maybe no one else will understand what I have to say, no one will gain pleasure or understanding from my words. And that’s still okay.

Sunboy walking across the river

And then it happened. I walked into church and pulled the pastor aside to tell him that my latest poem had been inspired by one of his sermons. He looked surprised, not knowing which sermon I meant, but said that he read my poem for the first time that morning and he was going to use it in his sermon. He said he was having difficulty making a connection fully in a way that satisfied him and my poem fit right in place. WOW! I felt honored that he would be reading my poem during his sermon, and more so that my poem helped someone in some small way.

Another church member said to me, “I love the last line of your poem last month. I’ve been carrying it in my head for a couple of weeks.” In shock, I bumbled a thanks.

During the pastor’s sermon, could see how my poem would fit. He spoke about being open to different ways of understanding faith and not using conformity as a measure of faith. Embracing diversity. And then he read my poem:

They say that faith can’t be proven,
that faith defies proof yet
there it is
as certain as love itself –
the Big Bang of God’s Love
woven in the fabric of my heart,
threaded with Grace,
as known to me as breath,
and certain as air, a love expanding
for billions of years,
decorating my heart  with hope
and embroidering into my life’s story .

I know faith because I know love
and I share it, never-ending –
embodying the faith
as it continues to expand.

The pastor continued, “This was written by a woman who is a scientist and a woman of faith.” as he said my name. The congregation turned to look at me and applaud. I was blown away. People later told me they could visualize the imagery, loved the writing and wanted to share it.

I excitedly shared my story on Twitter. People responded with encouraging comments, congratulations and affirmations. Someone said they “under-star me to avoid the appearance of excessive flattery”. One called my writing “wonderful and rare”, that I “really have a gift for expressing what most of us cannot define, much less put into words that can ring true.” Another wrote “your words are scenes in the form of letters. They amaze me!” One simply said, “Aww, that makes my heart happy. <3”.

I share this not to brag. Many people receive positive feedback on their writing, but for me this came at a crucial time. A crossroads of questioning what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and for whom. I tweeted “The encouragement came at a good time. Honestly, I’ve been second-guessing myself lately. Thanks again to everyone here for your kind words.

So, I’m back to writing, and nurturing my word-children. I feel gratitude for these forums to bring me out of my head when I need it. I now realize I was looking for signposts along the way, when the ultimate judge of my creative expression is myself. Lose that, and I have lost it all, regardless of what others think. As always, thanks to each and every one of you for reading these words.

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