Laura many times has a better sense about social media than I do. She tells me often that I need to “break up” with people of Facebook. In the end I agree with her, but I still have some roots from past religious experiences that believes I can change people. These people also believe the same thing about me. Often, they are easy to recognize because of the religious sounding names in their Facebook profile. I’ve learned to weed out those people early on because they often have agendas that either don’t interest me or would only take me back to spiritual infancy that I am trying to distance myself from. At the least, it will end in an argument.
I think I can say without reservation that I would never “friend” a person that garnered the name “prophet” in their Facebook profile. These people generally want to “speak” into my life, and they are hoping for an audience that fuels their narcissistic behavior. Maybe, it’s not always true, but my experience teaches me it is just better to avoid them altogether. Engaging with them either ends with an argument or with them condemning me for some vague thing that isn’t even true. With that said, I have nothing but admiration and respect for those that are truly prophetic and have something to say to the world. I lump them together, the poets and the prophets.
These people, the poets and the prophets, are quite the opposite from the people I mentioned before. They do not seek to be honored or recognized as much as they like to give what they have been given. They have a song to sing or word to say, but because they don’t always understand what it is they are trying to share, it is always with a bit of reluctance that they share their treasure with the world.
I believe Bob Dylan is one of the greatest poets of all time. I recently discovered his song, “Every Grain of Sand.” I think I understand about 10% of it, but I agree with other Dylan fans that this may be one of the greatest songs ever written. I think it’s about the universe. I think it’s also about the Divine. It’s about nature and our place and significance and things like that. But, even when poets are asked to explain their own creations, it’s often difficult for them to explain what they were trying to say.
The Christian Scriptures (The Bible) is a 1600 year record of people struggling to understand God. Many of them were prophets and poets. Along with the authors of the Bible, there are probably hundreds of thousands of seekers that have written about their quest to understand God and the Universe and how it all works together. They spoke in different languages and used different methods, but the way to recognize a poet or a prophet is that they don’t come to definite conclusions. When someone writes to a definite conclusion, we can be certain that they settled for an elementary understanding of things and they probably were not a prophet or a poet. Poets and prophets are searching for something deeper—something more Divine.
In some ways, I am trying to put language to the things I am discovering. In many ways, I try to share this with other people, hoping they will find words for the things that they are thinking. That is what connection, one of our deepest needs, is mostly about. We want to hear a song or read a book that resonates with us. That part of us that has an inclination that things can be understood is what keeps us scrolling and reading and listening to music. But, the other part of us has an inclination that some things are extremely hard to describe. We need the poets and prophets because some things only get muddied when we try to define them. They can wrestle with thoughts and ideas without having to wrangle them into a belief or a system.
To me, love songs are when a poet attempts to put something into words that cannot adequately be described with words. In interviews, they say a lot of things like “It like…” or “It reminds me of…” People often get mad at them because they seem elusive and unclear. But they are trying to describe something deeper and more mysterious that their language can define. People want to nail down the prophets of the Bible to be some kind of fortune tellers, but they were really just people trying to put into words what they were discovering when they went deeper—when they went inside.
You may have heard me mention the idea of “sinking” to get closer to the Divine. It comes from the popular Bible verse that we usually interpret “Be still and know that I am God.” When we “cease striving” or “be still,” we are able to sink into the mysteries that are deeper and more ancient than our words can adequately describe. In my book, The Tea Shop, I talk about Van Morrison’s song, where he encourages us to float “Into the Mystic.” Many times, the conversation with mystics is stalled by the statement, “It’s very hard to describe.” Most contemplatives I know talk about going inside, but don’t ask them for a formula! It’s just a sinking, or a drifting that is hard to turn into a formula or prescription or even a belief.
If our practices can be succinctly described, we will remain in the kiddie pool of the spiritual world. But when we can sink, we can discover more of the depths of the creator and this divine creation. When we allow ourselves to float, we find not a slippery slope but a current of understanding that we may not be able to describe, but we will know much more deeply. We can know more of the vastness of this mysterious, mystical, and limitless journey when we let the prophets and poets lead us there with their colorful versions of “It’s kind of like this…”
Even though it’s hard to go deeper with the prophets and poets, it’s not a waste of time. When we ponder words and thoughts that are hard to wrangle, it deepens our understanding of the things that really matter. History shows that most new discoveries and new understanding comes from these mystical people that dare to imagine what couldn’t be described at the time. We found words for all their imaginations, but in many ways when we did, it put limits on them. We built walls around their expanding ideas and tamed them.
It’s time to be wild again. Take a prophet or poet on the journey and float out into the mystic. Dive deep into the mysteries of life and let yourself sink long enough to know what can only be imagined, not defined. Take a step out into the desert with those that have ventured there and find mystery and paradox and nuance, not certainty and doctrine. Listen to words of the poet:
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.
~ Bob Dylan, Every Grain of Sand
 Psalms 46:10
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and the soon-to-be released Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary and Too Many Podcasters podcasts. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!