Over the course of an extraordinary weekend, two of Hopkins’ most devoted students, Christian Wiman and Eugene Peterson, guided us in our consideration of these questions. “Poetry and prayer,” Wiman spoke aloud, starting us off on Thursday evening. “What they might have to do with each other.”
As we listened, asked questions, told stories, and sought to air things out, we found that the slow, thoughtful overcoming of one false split would often lead to the collapse of other dualisms: faith and unbelief, mystery and doctrine, sacred and secular. Whatever sense of haste we might have brought to our time together–that rush to love our labels as ourselves–was gently challenged at every turn. As Peterson put it, “It takes a while to get the poets…It takes a while to get the gospel…We have to quit getting in a hurry with people…I think the besetting sin of Americans is impatience.”
If this is true, and the nods in the room said it was, we might begin to find ourselves both compelled and comforted by a renewed sense of God’s revelation and our attempt at witness to it as always demanding a certain open-handedness. Knowing with certainty where we’re headed is not in keeping with the vision of friendship, creativity, and right reverence we found emerging in our conversations. “If you know the end of what you’re writing, forget about it,” Wiman observed. The same could be said for prayer. The same must be said for faith.