Saturday, December 28, 2019

POEMS BETWEEN FEAR AND FAITH - Introduction

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(Before becoming a preacher, a nurse, an amateur artist, or a massage therapist, I was a poet and still am. Getting my poetry published in more than homemade binders had been a dream for years. Health challenges and the rise of modern book-publishing technology merged to motivate me to make the effort. This is not my sixth book of poems published in paperback and Kindle editions.

I wanted to put the introductory essays for each collection on my blog. If you want to know what makes me tick, my poetry tells it better than a biography.

This "Introduction" and the concluding poem are from my first book of poems. To read the posts from my others, click on these links:

“Introduction” to
 Poems Between Fear and Faith

When compared in general, fear paralyzes, while faith motivates. Fear erodes; faith edifies. Fear drains emotional energy; faith re-charges our batteries. Fear can lead to despair; faith can encourage hope.

Such contrasts easily multiply, because the experience of these two different attitudes is part of the human condition. God created our potential of either fearful flight from or a faith-filled fight with various challenging situations. Both are familiar responses to encountering hostile circumstances.
These two opposing states of minds may not always fit into vice-or-virtue categories. Just as pain alerts us to health issues needing attention, so fear can warn of real dangers to avoid. At the same time, faith in a deception can also be dangerous. Acting on a false belief can even be lethal.

In other words, healthy fear can be good, and inaccurate faith can be bad, not based on how we react to something but on the reality behind the reaction. Faith and fear cannot turn whatever initiates them into authentic realities. But they can transform unreasonable worries and unfounded hopes into powerful, mind-controlling factors in the way we live life.

When approaching a narrow trail on a steep cliff, a hiker is wise to cross it with caution. The object of concern is the real possibility of a deadly fall into the ravine below. But if, on coming to a calm, ankle-deep stream, that same hiker is frantic at the possibility of stumbling and drowning while wading across, we would call his fear childish. Objectively, the narrow ledge is a real danger, but the far-fetched threat of the shallow stream is totally subjective.

Faith’s situations are similar but not as easily evaluated. Beliefs are not considered to be absolute knowledge. The hiker’s friend might have told him earlier to go right, when the trail divides. But if he finds a sign posted at the fork telling hikers to go left, he must make a critical decision. Will he believe his friend’s word or the authority of the sign? Both are appealing for his subjective trust, but one direction will be objectively right and the other objectively wrong.

Based on a modern denial of absolutes, there is no right or wrong. Progressive thinking’s popular motto is: “The way you choose for yourself is the right one.” Maintaining a loyal confidence in his friend’s mistaken directions might feel like the right choice, but that feeling will last only until the sun begins to set on him and his unattained destination.

As in these illustrations, subjective experiences of faith and fear can misguide us. Fears spawned from nonexistent dangers or groundless worries may be emotionally felt but are falsely trusted. Likewise, faith in fictitious information or unsound instruction may be deeply sincere but can steer us far off course, sometimes into disaster.

God offers a divine solution to our debilitating fears and disappointing faiths by divinely wedding fear and faith into a life-affirming union. These two opposites can join in a happy marriage, if we learn how “to have and to hold” both godly fear and holy faith, while avoiding their false counterparts.

Did you know that we use the muscle of faith, when we cry out against the perplexing pains and recurrent griefs in the human condition? Suffering arouses our inner being to look up to God and say, “This ought not to be so!” That’s a good first step in proper faith, as long as we await His reply. Anticipating our Creator’s answer is the second step, and an essential one for our faith’s ongoing growth and health.

In nature’s beauties, God’s voice whispers only hints. When His Spirit anointed on the lips of prophets, He gave directions in signs and metaphors. But when He assumed our very nature and became one of us, His love shouted to us in perfect clarity, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” (Mat 11:28-29.)

By heeding those first two voices, a faith rooted in the soul’s authentic longings, will choose to walk in the light of that last invitation from God’s incarnate Son. It would be not only foolish to reject His offer but a real spiritual danger.

This is why Lady Wisdom in Prov 9:10 says, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Without godly fear, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The human condition offers abundant clues that something has definitely gone wrong. To disregard God’s personal involvement in resolving what went wrong is to ask for even more trouble.

Those who believe that only this material world exists imagine that death will end all troublesome human concerns. But their chosen faith is based on ignorance of humanity’s real nature and future. Suddenly, one day, they’ll be shocked to find that they have survived death. If they lived their lives without a morally wholesome “fear of the LORD,” dying will leave them in a truly dangerous predicament.

Fortunately, life offers instruction about moral choices. Most grow up learning that both action and inaction can have painful consequences. People shirking moral responsibility often find their evil choices catching up with them in their lifetime. Death, instead of alleviating this possibility, insures that this catching up will be absolutely unavoidable.

The inevitability of death calls for a serious and sober response to God, yet many are prisoners of unconcern. Their false faith inspires false courage. But the afterlife will correct their unbelief. They will experience the same dread known by their deceiving captors, the demons who “also believe, and tremble,” (James 2:19). The only hope for unbelievers is a present one. During this earthly life, they must embrace a reverential fear and turn in faith to God with repentance [metanoia, a Greek word meaning “a change of mind”].

Although godly fear grows into an ever-deepening love for God, worldly dangers may nag believers with worry. As depicted by my optical-illusion painting on the front cover, such fear looks dark, when it invades the light of God’s promised care. Conversely, when surrounded by threatening darkness, true faith glows brighter. Some day, in Heaven, dark danger will flee away and faith will become sight. Obviously, we’re not there yet. But, while we await our eternal home, faith can live life fearlessly, if we maintain our awareness that the Lord of Heaven indwells our hearts.

As with my other poem books, some poems here have nothing to do with the title or this introduction. While I’m still on this whirling globe, worldly fears continue to vie for control over my heart and mind. Some of these poems were written to encourage myself and fellow-believers to keep a faithful, steady pace in our journey with Jesus. A few others were merely for comic relief along the way. You’ll find experiments with haiku and brevity, on both light and deep subjects. Walking life’s narrow path between fear and faith is serious business, but not morose. Faith can be lighthearted, especially when enjoying a good laugh at a silly fear.

My hope and prayer in sending forth these poems is that some of them will reach those still wavering in their faith, whether non-christians or straying believers, and help them make that wise decision to respond to Christ’s invitation, “Come unto me . . .”

David L. Hatton

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

 LETHAL GUESTS

As hungry, burrowing worms gnaw through,
destroying the plants on which they grew . . .

As rust reduces to soft red earth
the mighty iron that gave it birth . . .

As moths lay larvae in woolen wear
to ravage the threads that feed them there . . .

As ashes fall in a fiery flame
from the fueling wood from which it came . . .

So pride’s long reach for its haughty goal
consumes the life of its host, the soul.

                          — David L. Hatton, 2/20/2019
            (Poems Between Fear and Faith, © 2019)

For more single poems from this volume, visit my website's “Poetry Page.”

4 comments:

  1. I like your poem here, Lethal Guests, and will share it at a small group for adults with learning disabilities because we will be thinking about not storing up treasures on earth where moths and rust destroy. We can use your poem to bring in the destruction caused by pride.

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    1. I read this very late, finding it by having gone into my "design" page. Thanks for appreciating and sharing this poem, Connie. I have had it criticized for various reasons by other poets, but I still like it myself and how it came to me. Blessings, my friend!

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  2. I tried posting a comment but it did not show. I appreciate the poem you give us here, David, Lethal Guests.

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  3. I wish comments showed up immediately, which they don't, but even more, I wish they'd send a notification of any comment, which they also don't.

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