If you have faith, if faith in God has become part of your waking (and sleeping) life, you become aware of a conundrum. You are not yet a citizen of heaven, but you are also no longer a citizen of earth, what the Bible refers to as being in this world but not of it. In a very real sense, you are “between,” tied to one, longing for the other, but living between.
That’s the idea that keeps recurring as I read Between Heaven and Earth: Poems by Kelly Chripczuk. Chripczuk wears many hats – mother, spiritual director, pastor, wife, writer, and poet. She knows what it means to be “between” all those hats, and usually wearing most of them simultaneously. What do her poems tell us about living, longing, and what lies in between?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Chripczuk divides her 45 poems in the collection by roughly but not exactly thirds. The “heaven poems” are based on Bible passages, many of them written, she says, as part of her sermon preparation process. (I identify here; I take sermon notes in the form of rough drafts of poems.)
The “earth” poems are based in the experiences of real life, and are further divided by the seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer. They include reflections in origami, work, grandma’s chickadees, the arrival of spring, wet wood, and more. But just became they are “earth” poems doesn’t mean they lack a spiritual dimension, just as earthly life for a believer doesn’t lack spiritual dimensions. Consider “Advent,” one of the winter poems.
The cat comes in
through the window after
his morning jaunt. Fresh air
clings to his mane, and I
bury my face in the fluff
around his neck.
I believe this is also
how Christ comes
into our midst – soft
and sudden, squeezing
in among us, smelling
of earth and grass
and morning frost.
The “between” poems are exactly that, contemplations of the space we live between heaven and earth. This space is no less real than what’s covered in the “earth” poems, and it’s no less spiritual than what Chripczuk covers in the “heaven” poems. It is where we believers find ourselves, living between heaven and earth, trying to make sense of both, trying to guide ourselves and our loved ones toward an understanding of both.
The poems of Between Heaven and Earth reflect our tensions, our realities, and our hopes in simple yet profound ways.
Top photograph by Sven B via Unsplash. Used with permission.