I tried to find You
I tried to find You
between pages of gold dust
in words of red
I searched for You
like You were my missing brother
looking through doorways
at the back of every pew
hoping to see
even the back of You
for a trace of Your voice on the stage
or, in the white smoke and lights
the silhouette of Your frame
I watched for You as if
You were my lost father,
my native tongue,
I tried to find Your name
on the list of delegates
registered for tomorrow's conference
I travelled to the stones of Bethel in the East
and back again to ceilings of white
out onto the concrete streets
Then I got tired of searching,
heart heavy with the weight
of blood on torn clothes
I started to plan Your funeral
I began the walk home
over tarnished paths
back through my battered door
into my small room
sitting on the floor
and opened my eyes to see
You, waiting here already
arms around me
tears falling on my neck
falling from a friend, a King
waiting for His lost son
His missing brother
Poem by Alicia Dawn
As a fun exercise I thought I'd do something I don't usually do: explain myself. Poetry is one of those things that can't be exactly and precisely pinned down, and I'm sure people will have their own individual ideas in connection with the poem. But I thought it would be cool to look at the interplay of images from my perspective. Poetry can be mysterious and slightly intimidating at times, so I hope this will demystify things a little.
Faith and spirituality are huge in my life, so the poem is mainly about how we search for God, or search for more of God. The poem directly speaks to God and describes some different ways that we might try to 'find' Him. The 'pages of gold dust' and 'words of red' refer to scripture; we might search for Him in ancient writings like the Bible but does this alone lead us closer to Him?
Looking for God as if He were a 'missing brother' or 'lost father' emphasises the raw hunger in humanity to find God's love; it's as if we were looking for a member of our own family, our DNA, a person we were born to know, and His absence, or perceived absence, sends us on journeys far and wide.
Some might search for God in churches 'at the back of every pew', 'on the stage', or in conferences. Or we might search by making pilgrimages to countries or places that are renowned for their spiritual resonance, the 'stones of Bethel in the East'.
But the speaker in the poem gets 'tired of searching' because they're looking for God as if He only lives in particular physical places or words, and this limited mentality yields a limited experience of God Himself. I'm not saying that God isn't in church or in the Bible, but that He, first and foremost, wants to be in us.
There are also allusions throughout the poem to the story of Joseph in the Bible, and to the story of the Prodigal Son. About half way through the poem these references become more emphatic - the speaker's heart is 'heavy with the weight / of blood on torn clothes' just as Joseph's father was heartbroken at the disappearance (and what he thought was the death) of his son (Genesis 37). He would have had a funeral for Joseph, thinking he was lost forever, because his brothers had told the lie that he was dead, rubbing animal blood on Joseph's clothes as seeming evidence. We, too, can get caught up in things that seem to prove God is dead without knowing the bigger picture and the lies we're being fed.
The speaker of the poem continues the journey to his own home, back to his 'small room', having given up on finding God in places, events and words alone. At this point of having nothing left to give, he closes his eyes, sitting on the floor, hopeless, and then God meets him here.
As he opens his eyes, he sees God has been with him always, waiting for a moment of intimacy so that He can show His reality - the man in the poem can't do anything to 'find' God because God has already found Him. God already wants to be in a relationship with him, as a 'friend', a 'King' and a 'brother'. Jesus has broken His heart and cried waiting for this moment to arrive - the moment where He can meet this son in a deep way, and reveal Himself as a real person, not a lofty concept contained in big buildings or elevated language.
Again, this moment with 'tears falling on my neck' echoes the story of Joseph, and that of the Prodigal Son. Joseph longed to be with his brothers and to see his father again with gut-wrenching grief, despite the wrongdoing that was perpetrated against him (his brothers sold him into slavery and, as a result, he hadn't seen his family or homeland for many years.) When his brothers and father came to see him after these years of separation, he couldn't restrain his emotions and he cried so loudly that the whole palace heard. He fell on their necks, kissed them and cried tears on their skin (Genesis 45-46). I believe Jesus feels the same about us - He's just waiting for us to see Him; He misses relationship with us like a grief-stricken man misses his lost brothers and father. In the Prodigal Son story, the father sees his wayward son returning home and He likewise runs to the son and kisses his neck, embracing him with incredible affection, reflecting the heart of our heavenly Father God towards us even when we have run away from Him (Luke 15:11-31).
The metaphors overlap and blur at times, and are 'slippery' as I like to say. I love this about poetry - one metaphor or symbol can morph or cross over with another, and I find the same thing happens throughout the Bible; there is such richness in that book, and when we pair our hunger for God with meeting His Spirit personally, we see that His methods of expressing love towards us are endlessly metamorphosing. He is the one finding us and pursuing us; we just need to surrender to Jesus' giant, engulfing love, and then we'll see Him everywhere.
So I hope that this has been an insight into my style (keep in mind everyone's style of writing is different, so by no means am I suggesting that anyone should emulate the way I write, or that they have to like it) - because my life is influenced by the morphing, million ways that God shows His affection, my images and symbolism often reflect this.
Feel free to check out my full poetry collection Sea Wings which contains this poem and others:
Kindle version: www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0771LXZKW
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/paperlamp7/
Photo credit below: Caleb Ekeroth on Unsplash