When I was in college I had a friend that I really respected. Mike was a few years older than me and we were paired up randomly to work as prayer partners for our Christian fellowship group that we both belonged to on campus. Having traveled to Europe for a study abroad program, he seemed worldly to me and I hung on every word he said like they were pearls of wisdom. I looked at our relationship as one of mentor and student. He majored in English and we talked about music and writing and reading quite a bit when we got together for our scheduled prayer sessions. Mike graduated years before me. His mentorship was based mostly on convenience and not emotion. While I was happy to be paired up with him on a project at the time, it was not surprising that once he left campus I never really thought of him much and have completely lost touch.
In the last year or so I have had the pleasure of joining a writers group. Once a month, this lovely group of women respectfully shares what we have written and enjoys each other’s encouragement. We also do some exercises together to hone our writing skills. Our ages vary, our mode of writing is different and our attendance to meetings is completely voluntary. This is also a great mentorship for me, but one that is casual and easy going.
Definition: mentor (noun) men tɔr 1. Experienced adviser and supporter; somebody, usually older and more experienced, who advises and guids a younger, less experienced person. 2. Trainer; a senior or experienced person in a company or organization who gives guidance and training to a junior colleague.
Last week I received an email from my women’s writing group about our next meeting. Being February, we were asked to voluntary come with something we have written on the theme of “love”. I absolutely adore these requests. I feel like it pushes me to do something I might not otherwise do and I’m always surprised at how much I enjoy a different topic. I wanted to take this opportunity to challenge myself a little further and try writing a poem. To me the topic “love” screamed for a poetry genre! I don’t usually write poetry aside from Haiku. This is where all of a sudden I remembered my meetings with Mike.
In college there was a poetry publication that students could submit works to and have published. It was distributed free to anyone that wanted it. I loved reading it but didn’t have any background in writing poetry. I felt called to write but clumsily stumbled around the mechanics of writing and thought maybe I should share my attempts at poetry with my worldly, English major friend, Mike. He was happy to help and I gave him about five sheets of paper where I poured my heart and soul out in my best attempt to be “poetic”. He tried his best to tell me what was very obvious; it was horrible poetry. He tried to explain to me that there are forms of poetry and certain mechanical aspects of writing that qualify writing pieces as a poem. My writings had none of these qualifications. He bluntly told me not to submit anything to the publication because he was concerned I would be rejected. I awkwardly asked for my papers back and embarrassed, never mentioned it again. I was incredibly immature and feeling rejected by someone I respected so I never attempted to write poetry again until recently. As an adult, I realize now that I could have taken that moment to look further into what he was trying to tell me and learn more about the art of writing poetry, but I didn’t. I unintentionally shut that desire down and told myself “You are NOT a poet.”, and left it there.
Now in the last year or so, I’ve rekindled that poet inside me. I have found that I stick with Haiku because it has a simple formula of counting syllables that I can’t “mess up”. However, with this latest assignment from my writers group I really want to try something else. I want to write a poem on the theme of “love” that isn’t Haiku. I sat at my computer and tried to cobble together words. I found myself Googling poetry genres and forms like crazy. I questioned everything I wrote and wondered if it was actually a poem or not. Why was I doing that? What was causing all of this insecurity in trying something new? I was shocked to find my mind wandering back to that situation with Mike over 20 years ago! I thought I had completely forgotten it.
God does this to me all the time!!! I’ll be in the throes of something important to me or time consuming and suddenly I will have a memory of something or someone from ages ago. It’s usually a circumstance I initially look at as insignificant and try to dismiss but also invokes a strong emotion. Like this memory of my poetry conversation with Mike, I wondered why I was even having this memory but at the same time I could feel my awkward embarrassment and shame at revealing my horrible poetry to someone I respected as if it were happening now.
I believe God draws us back to those moments because there is something we believed about ourselves that started the basis of a lie. It’s a lie that subconsciously snowballed and now God wants to heal and correct it in our thinking. I let myself believe that “I cannot write poetry”. That belief was so successful that I could feel my emotions resisting my attempt at writing a poem this week. But it is based on nothing in reality. My adult eyes could understand that I was 18, insecure and hanging on the words of someone that was the wise old age of 21. He probably didn’t have the capacity at that point in his life to effectively communicate something difficult. I didn’t have the maturity to be objective.
God calls us to heal in these moments. It’s crazy when I think about how my brain holds onto something deep down and it bubbles up to the surface just at a time when we can be receptive to God’s intervention in healing it. Being alert and aware to those little moments of memory can be instrumental in witnessing God’s presence in our lives.
I am still struggling with the love poem. I have no idea how to write it and where to start. I’m sure I will throw something down on paper and bring it to my group on Sunday. They will be as gracious as always and point out the wonderful things and brush over the imperfect. I’m poring over poetry magazines and looking for form and structure and trying to emulate it. It will not be perfect, but I will take this as an opportunity to see myself in the same light that God sees me and worry less about the poem itself.