I have a tattoo. Not too many people know that about me. It’s smallish and white (you can hardly see it) and on my right wrist. It looks like a scar. It says “ποίημα,” the Greek word most often translated “workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand so that we would walk in them.”
I wear this word for a hundred reasons: Because I’m God’s. Because I’m valuable and planned and purposed. Because the idea of me is ancient. Because I have work to do.
Today I’m thinking about reason #16b: Because the word is, transliterated, “poiema” and because that is the word from which we get our English word “poem.” Maybe you’ve heard that. It’s beautiful to think of yourself as God’s poem.
I like it for the beauty of it.
But I like it for another reason, too.
French critic Paul Valery famously said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”
Tonight I’ve spent four hours re-writing an article for New Wineskins Magazine. It’s about lament, how to grieve publicly in community. This idea, the speaking of it, is a slippery thing. Words are amphibious by nature.
I have a vision of what this article should be and say, but for a week now the words have wandered away from me. They’re not right. And so I push and pull, subtract and add, trying to make what I see in my head match what I type on the page. In other words, I edit.
I think good writers are good writers and great writers are great editors. To make something better is is almost as miraculous as making it in the first place.
Here is where we get back to the tattoo and where we see God, too.
To say we are a poem, a master work of any sort, is to say we are edited. Something planned and shaped, never finished, always being made better, more beautiful.
When I edit, I look at my tattoo and I remember that God and I are editing in tandem—me shaping and re-shaping sentences, Him molding and scraping and adding to me. The delight of that, of doing the God-work of editing through which God will work in and for His glory while God works on me, well, that’s the kind of thing that inspires a painful and permanent, so-far-unregretted tattoo.