Words can’t describe

Not that you have a lot of opportunity to judge here, but one of the poem-things that I work hard on is to describe things exactly.

This is more challenging than you might think, because part of what I want you-as-poem-reader to do is to Pay Attention, and not gloss over what I’ve put into my poem. Because after one has lived awhile, one zips past most things; it’s one of the side effects of living more than a decade. (Here’s a good and funny blog post about that, since I’m doing something else today.)

So I’m describing things as accurately as I can, using other things—images—that you probably haven’t juxtaposed with what I’m describing. Particularly when what I want to describe is intangible, like an emotional state or a scrap of an experience. Things that don’t generally get described.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Adam Hamilton’s Moses with my Monday study group, and we’d gotten to the wilderness. I like thinking about wildernesses—they’re so metaphorically bountiful—but I didn’t this time.

I thought about God’s detailed instructions for the Tent of Meeting. You know, the part in Exodus with the specs: this long, this wide, use this fabric and this wood, hire these contractors…

In the companion video, Hamilton comments that the Tent of Meeting is much like the Israelites’ homes at the time, just much, much grander. And I thought, sure. If I were told to build God a house, I’d build one like mine. But bigger, and with more bathrooms because our worshiping-family is much larger than the one at my Christmas dinner table.

And then I thought: did God particularly want a tent? Or a humongous edifice, as in the Solomonic, European medieval, or Texas contemporary periods?

Did God want something different, and we humans nodded and said, Right! We got this! A house for God!

…and because we thought “house,” we thought… house?

How does God describe things we’ve never before seen, never ever known?

Does it sound like:

And the one seated [on the throne] looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.

Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,

Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
who was and is and is to come.”

Revelation 4:3-8

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