The dreamer and the doubter
sit side by side
on my brain’s front porch
The dreamer sits on a pile of pallets flogged
from various roadside heaps
(where he sees great potential)
The doubter is the original armchair expert
feet up on an old recliner,
mirroring his sceptical raised brows
The dreamer points to the nearby door,
entryway to my brain proper
“You know what’s in there?
Ten thousand poems, and a novel or three
a revelatory memoir and a PhD
a groundbreaking series of documentaries
a business model that values artists
a church that restores hope to wounded roadside pilgrims
all integrated with the qualities of
a present father
all-round neighbourhood hero”
“There is so much potential behind that door”
The doubter leans forward and his armchair squeaks,
One thousand and one dreams that will never take form
all scattered, half-baked or halfway gone.
He only ever writes the book’s first page
only ever runs the first half of the race
and it’s derivative drivel
and it’s a sad sight to see.
It’s all wasted potential,
If you’re asking me.”
Suddenly the door creaks open
and a head peeps out
It belongs to the doer,
and he opens his mouth,
“Excuse me fellas, trying to work in here
Bringing to life a couple fresh ideas
And it’s fine if you want to come chew his ear
every now and again with all your hopes and fears
But maybe you’ve both got the goalposts confused?
Maybe the world’s not as clear-cut as win or lose
So, have your little chat but if you want to keep judging
maybe get off your chairs and come make something.”
Before I was born
my mother and father
moved from respective country towns
became same city bound
and together found
the quiet, Australian, Christian values
they were raised with
became the awakened zeal
of passionate university evangelists
My Dad, always wanted to be a pastor,
he is an architect,
but I realise now he has always been a pastor to me.
There were four kids before I came on the scene
six by the time the family was complete
I, number five
was born breathing Bible stories into lungs
immersed in words faithfully sung
seeing Old Testament violence filtered
through animated vegetables using clever puns
I was suspicious of Santa from an early age
I was singin' baa baa doo baa baa to Colin Buchanan tapes
At five years old
in the kitchen with my mother,
I asked Jesus to enter my heart.
Nothing deeply profound
and yet, as simple and beautiful as it still sounds.
Years later I would question the validity of my five year old faith
but now I think a five year old’s faith carries no hate
a five year old’s faith knows no shame
a five year old’s faith can be pretty great.
to when I am
fourteen years old
I think life is swell
I am on MSN messenger warning my friends about hell
I hate Muslims, atheists, gay people as well
I am very confident I know how everything works
I love Jesus, but my faith is full of darkness unsearched
collections of unwritten biases
I was unconsciously given
At Seventeen years old
I am leading classroom debates about the age of the earth
I am turning the public schoolyard into a church
I am passionate, naive and clumsy at best
I avoid alcohol, swear words, gay people and sex.
In the eyes of some I am a success;
in the eyes of others, I am a threat
Nineteen years old
I wade through Philosophy tutorials and set texts
I add to my self-righteousness undergraduate pretentiousness.
My mind is engaging more deeply,
but my answers are still pre-determined
God is still a middle-class, capitalist white boy like me
and I still know how everything works
Twenty years old
I spit raps in juvenile justice facilities
I begin to see aspects of faith a little differently
I begin to wonder if these kids would be welcomed at services on Sundays
I begin to confront aspects of myself that seem a little ugly
I begin to wonder if I have misunderstood how some things work.
The seeds of new questions are planted in the soil of my soul
Twenty-five years old
I become a father
two months later I become a pastor
both of these roles bring questions harder
than any I had grappled with prior
chinks to the armour
having casual existential crises between Sunday sermons
trying to exercise leadership that looks more like service
I’m hyper conscious that I’m in a position of power and authority
trying to follow a rabbi whose life was marked by sacrifice and poverty.
My heart has felt the insane expansion of parental responsibility
My past now looks like a bread crumb trail of judgmental hypocrisy
I no longer know how everything works
But I am still convinced that Jesus is the hope of the cosmos,
Thirty years old and here’s where I’m at:
My faith is a vibrant patchwork with some open gaps
I’m no longer desperate to hide every hole
I have lost the illusion that God is mine to control
I believe my body is not just a container for a heaven-bound soul
but instead part of a cosmic broken temple being made whole
I'm ashamed thinking of people my faith was wielded like a knife at
particularly the ones who weren’t present to fight back
all the people I had ridiculed before meeting round tables
ideas formed without relationship, based purely on fables
I grieve often for all my friends who have faced
a choice between a faith community or an honest faith
that should never have been a choice in the first place.
If nothing else, shouldn’t church at least be safe?
These snapshots of my evolving faith
are pictures of broken humanity sprinkled with grace.
There are past versions of me I struggle to like
I hope the future versions of me look more like Christ
Sometimes it feels like everything I believe has changed
except one thing,
at the centre remains.
I know how very little works
but now I think maybe that’s ok.
I still believe Jesus loves me
like when I was five years old.