What Do You See?

This week, I begin a new series on the book of Jeremiah. This first poem takes its inspiration from Jeremiah 1:1-19.

I must acknowledge my debt to Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message of this passage wherein he seeks to make the pun found in the Hebrew between the words “watching” and “almond” more clear. Peterson translates Jeremiah 1:11,12 this way,

God’s Message came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
I said, “A walking stick—that’s all.”
And God said, “Good eyes! I’m sticking with you.
I’ll make every word I give you come true.”

Eugene Peterson, The Message

Here rather than trying to make “almond” and “watching” fit, he employs the double entendre of the meaning of “stick” as in a “stick of almond” and “sticking with you” (watching). I think he’s done a pretty good job. In fact, so good that I have borrowed his word play and employed it below. To him, I gladly give any credit, though he deserves none of the blame.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

I loved you before I made you in love
In the hidden place of your begetting;
Your life’s mission, appointed from above,
Is to speak my words, my word spreading.

“Ah, but Lord God, don’t you know, can’t you see?
I am only a youth; I cannot speak.
No one will heed or listen to me;
I don’t know how, I’m not strong, only weak.”

Ah? Indeed, ‘Ah,’ do not say, do you hear?
Into your mouth I place my words of pow’r;
You shall say what I say. Go. Do not fear;
Though they buffet, you’ll remain my strong tower.

“How will I know that you are with me?”
I thought to myself as I walked along.
Jeremiah, tell me, what do you see?
I replied, “I see a stick of almond.”

You see well, son! I’ll be sticking all ‘round —
Watch you work, watch my word, for years to come.
You watch each spring when this stick of almond
Reminds with its blooms the sticking I’ve done.

Remember this stick; with you, I’m sticking ‘round
Whether you work to plant, pull up, or tear down.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Artwork: Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985). Calling of Jeremiah, 1957. Hand-colored etching. Gift of Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty. Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University.

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