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A Grain of Grammar, A World of Hope

Christian Wiman is an acclaimed poet who has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer. Thankfully, his illness seems to be in remission; but no one knows how long he has to live. This cancer is capable of “smoldering” in some people for decades; or, he could die in a month, the disease turning his body into quick tinder. Despite this, he and his wife decided to have children. Wiman is poignantly aware of the judgment from others regarding this decision: “Though people never say it, you can see it in their eyes sometimes, the question: ‘How could you do it? How could you bring children into a situation so precarious? How could you seed them with this grief?’”[1]

Because he is a poet, Wiman employs metaphors, such as “seed” with grief. What does this figurative language call to your imagination? To me, it speaks the truth that, whether or not we have diagnosed with cancer, no one knows the future. No one is promised tomorrow. We, too, are mortal and will one day die. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. To be alive is likewise to experience the pain of death, a hard lesson that everyone must eventually learn.

Yet, a reading from Colossians prompts and prods our imagination with yet another agricultural reference: we have been rooted in Christ (Col 2:6). God, then, is with us: a grain of grammar, a world of hope.[2] So Wiman feels empowered to continue writing, now directly addressing his twin daughters:

My loves, I will be with you, even if I am not with you . . . My loves, I love you with all the volatility and expansiveness of spirit that you have taught me to feel, and I feel your futures opening out from you . . . I will be with you. I will comfort you in your despair and I will share in your joy . . . My love is still true, my children, still with you, still straining through your ambitions and your disappointments, your frenzies and forgetfulness, through all the glints and gulfs of implacable matter–to reach you, to help you, to heal you.[3]


[1] My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, 147

[2] Ibid., 146

[3] Ibid., 161

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.


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