[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]
[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]
I wrote in my introduction to the poem “Practical Theology,”
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin was the chaplain at Yale when he became famous for his courageous words and actions as a leader of the Civil Rights and Peace Movements. Bill welcomed conversations with students who were turning away from the church. He would ask them to tell him about the God they didn’t believe in anymore—usually an old white man on the throne who was hateful, wrathful and vengeful toward any who displeased him or failed to believe in him. Then Bill would surprise them by telling them he didn’t believe in that God either.
The God that Bill believed in, and that I believe in, is a God whose love is like the most generous-hearted, charitable, unselfish human love, only even more universal and unconditional. “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (I John 4:16b)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
It is a huge diminishment to limit that love to an ideal father’s. The scriptures compare it to a mother hen’s love and in this poem, “Perfect in Her Eyes,” it is a young girl’s love.
“God” does not need to mean a personal being, it can be understood as the force that created the universe and sparked into existence the first living cells and that flows through all life as a sacred way of love and life and light. God is a stream of living water that is the source of all life, all inspired creativity and growth, all justice, equality and peace, all beloved, inclusive community, all compassion and mercy and forgiveness.
The Twelve Step tradition wisely recognizes that we can think of this higher power in any way that works for us. The important thing is to come to believe that it exists, and to place our will and our life in its care. We release the canoe of our being into the flow of its stream and find that it will not only carry us through life but also comfort our bumps and free us from our snags.
I talked about kenosis, metanoia and agape in my introduction to “Practical Theology.”
Kenosis means emptying ourselves of our selfish self, our ego—what is often called our false self—so that our true self may flow freely through us. That true self is the presence of God or the higher power or sacred way in us. Our true self is the Spirit’s living water that we all share, that makes us all one, that flows from our deepest heart’s core. Kenosis allows metanoia to happen. Metanoia is the transformation and evolution of our consciousness. The direction in which the stream of God’s metanoia carries us is toward ever greater agape, or God-like love.
The realm of God is wherever that love rules our personal relationships, communities, institutions, economic systems and governments. It is the sustainable, just, equitable and harmonious radical revolution of values and reconstruction of society that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called us to undergo, and said we must in order to survive. This is even clearer to see today.
The wisdom of Jesus and Taoism both said that we need to become as little children to enter that realm or way of being. This poem is a glimpse of that truth in some of my treasured experiences with my darling daughter, Cary Margaret, when she was a little girl. The stream was on the hill behind the parsonage in West Newbury, Vermont.
Perfect in Her Eyes
A man and daughter
kneel down at the brook
and reach their hands
to just above the flow
and let their boats drop,
then stand back and look
to see if they will float
and where they go.
The crafts are last year’s
empty milk-weed pods,
halved and death-hardened
into warped canoes,
as much like boats
as humans are like gods
standing so rapt in joy
and mud-soaked shoes.
Can you imagine rapture
on God’s face, a little girl
who placed you in the stream
who claps or gasps
as you swirl through your race
and bump or snag,
a God who’s on your team,
who thinks your emptiness
her perfect boat
and runs to you
to help you keep afloat?
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder
3 thoughts on “Perfect in Her Eyes”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to each new post. They are becoming a regular part of my day. You have rekindled my love of poetry. Thought of your writings today as I was fly fishing . Thanks again
Thank you so much, Bob. That means the world to me. And I love the image of you fly fishing! I picture “A River Runs Through It” but with a happy ending.