Georgia vines cover our backyard like love covers a multitude of sins. At least that is the natural order of things—with the vines, as well as with true love.
We are slowly learning about southern biology. My wife’s daily devotional times are suffering thanks to the babbling birds boldly blaring their boom boxes behind our brick abode. I’m noticing—I think, I hope—that Georgia grass grows just a bit more gradually than Iowa varieties.
I might be wrong. Either way, I know that my love should look more like Iowa grass and Georgia vines, and that forgiveness should grow more quickly in wounds of my heart.
Mom talks about these things in the poem she shares this month. If you are struggling to forgive, or surprised by your own capacity to hate, then may her words give you fresh courage.
Mom’s poem is old—first written when I was only eight. (I recall the geological events she describes from the time, but was blissfully unaware as a boy of the concurrent ecclesiological disruptions motivating her poem.) Mom has written a new introduction to her old poem. But first, here is the poem. Enjoy!
How persistent Spring is,
Untiring in her zeal
To carpet all that’s barren,
To beautify and heal.
Even into gashes
That man has blasted out,
Peninsulas are greening
And tiny islands sprout.
How forgiving Spring is
Of winter’s wasting shocks;
Ferns trail her every footstep
And moss adorns the rocks.
Oh, if man would mellow,
Forgive as joyously,
And seek to heal old wound scars
—Elaine Gingrich, January 1982/1985. Published in Ontario Informer, 1985.
Ken and I have been marking Bible courses for prison inmates for over twenty years. The very first lesson in the first Gospel Echoes Team course asks the student to name the most forgiving person that he knows other than God. Another question I marked last night: “What have you observed in Jesus’ relationships that could help you get along better with others?” The inmate responded with “Forgiveness is key.”
Forgiveness! This theme appears again and again in the inmates’ responses and comments and prayer requests. “Pray that my family, my wife, my children will forgive me.” “ Pray that I can forgive myself.” “I am finding it easier to forgive those who have hurt me.” “Studying these courses is helping me to forgive others.”
One student had wanted his life to end but reading the Bible showed him that he could turn his life around. He asked forgiveness of God and his loved ones and was finally able to forgive his girlfriend who left him while he was in jail. Forgiveness is transformative.
We all know forgiveness is not essential only for prison inmates. The scars that I write about in this poem have nothing to do with crime or incarceration. Sadly many Christians live imprisoned far too long in the grips of unforgiveness and bitterness. No wonder the epistles command us over and over to be tenderhearted, to forgive as Christ forgave us, and to return good for evil.
“Like Spring” was written after a discouraging season in church life. Differing opinions on church affiliation had caused our beloved pastor to move on. A few members moved away. Ken wondered why he was building our new home. The images for the poem grew out of the road construction occurring that summer past our property. The cottage trail winding between the northern lakes was redirected, blasted through the rocky hill between our circle drive. Several times rock-drilling and blasting sent us out of our trailer home to safety, and the dust and rumble of huge dump trucks and power shovels entertained my three young sons who had a front rock seat to all the action.
It was the next spring, as I walked and prayed, that I was amazed to see how soon the barren disturbed patches of earth and crevices in the rocks were again sprouting with new growth and green beauty. But then, of course, Christ is the giver of life, of new life, in nature and in human hearts. And God is love and has called us to love and forgive as He does, to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. I think of a simple poem I wrote in my teens: “Hating Those Who Hate.”
HATING THOSE WHO HATE
The times when I most see the need
To love mankind,
I feel like driving this great truth
Into man’s mind.
The passion of this growing lack
Of love grips me.
I see it is our foremost great
And yet the times my being throbs
With pain at hate
Is when my heart most tends to hate
Those men who hate.
You cannot hope to help someone
You do not love—
The only answer to this need
Comes from above.
Yes, God’s way and nature’s way is better.
—Elaine Gingrich, May 26, 2016
For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.
And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at . Thanks!