In my book Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity, I wrote the following in the chapter titled, Being with the Poets and Prophets.
“The Christian Scriptures were written over a period of 1600 years. It is a 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 poet. Poets and prophets are searching for something deeper—something more Divine.” ~Karl Forehand, Being
So, even defining a poet or prophet can be like trying to hit a moving target. I remember seeing videos of people interviewing Dylan and both of them getting frustrated. We love our certainty, and we love putting things and people in boxes, so we know what to expect from them and how to describe them. But in the long run, clearly defining things can lead to limiting our future understanding of what is true of anything.
It may help to start with the assumption that things are infinitely more complex than we ever imagined. In way, maybe our attempts to define the Divine may only limit our true understanding of the same. When we anthropomorphize God into a reverse image of ourselves, we may be missing many layers of deepness and complexity that we never even considered.
Scientists are starting to discover that even at the sub-atomic level, there is evidence of intelligence and even communication – there are clues and suggestions about what is, but no concrete way to wrap it all up in a bow and make a doctrine out of it.
The poets and prophets give us a way to talk about it without limiting it to just what we understand at this given time. They warn us of dangers ahead, but they may not even understand why.
This isn’t an excuse to bypass anything, but rather a charge to keep searching. It’s an encouragement to keep looking over the next horizon for new beginnings and new understanding.
When I use the word prophet, please understand I’m not talking about the modern, evangelical practice of guessing what will happen next and passing the collection plate when they are accidentally right. I’m talking about real prophets who help us interpret the world and easily admit they might be wrong because they are still searching for things like truth and justice and unity.
Not everyone is a poet, each person has a song to sing.
Everyone is not a prophet, but all humans deserve to be heard.
Instead of listening to those that are certain and want to recruit us into their herd of followers, maybe we could take the road less traveled and look out over horizon for new and challenging insights. There certainly is truth, but it may be bigger (or smaller) than we imagined and we probably won’t find it in the neatly packaged boxes that people have prepared for us.
May we continue to wander and wonder on this magnificent journey!
Be where you are, be who you are,
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 Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. 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!