Poetry And Plumbing

Making sense of art and craft

Meet Stewart.  Stewart is 42 years old and decided it was time to come to church.  The first couple of weeks he is excited.  The pastor shares messages that encourage and equip him to get through the week.  He makes some new friends.  Life gets better.  Then his wife dies and he loses his job all in the same week.  As quickly as he came through the front door, Stewart is gone.  Sound familiar?


As a pastor, it’s often saddening to see how many people start out running in the right direction and stop.  It’s especially discouraging when you see them beginning to make progress.  But while the pattern is difficult to understand, it’s not so difficult to recognize.  In every case, there’s a lack of persistence.

Lets have some fun and use poetry and plumbing as metaphors for a flourishing life.  Pipes make it possible for water to move from point A to point B.  They are everywhere; in our homes, our cars, in the ground, even in us- miles and miles and miles of them, making life as we know it, possible.  If I asked, you would agree pipes are important.  They are an engineering marvel, yet so commonplace that we take them for granted.

While you may agree pipes are important, you may not feel the same about a good poem.  But did it ever occur to you that people who love poetry feel the same way you do about pipes?  They’d be quite happy living off the grid with no running water, with only their poems to keep them happy.  Hot water?  Who needs it when you have Robert Frost?

Then there are the Plumber/Poets.  These people love both plumbing and poetry.  Their lives are a combination of practicality and possibility.

Now imagine what happens when a Plumber and a Poet live together.  The Plumber comes home after plumbing all day.  Lets call him Stewart, for fun.  All day long he’s been working under a timeline.  His job is important.  It has to be performed accurately.  The water has to flow freely from point A to point B.  There can be no leaks or breaks.  On his arrival at home (Stewart even thinks of his travel in technical terms), Penelope- his wife- runs to meet him.  She’s excited to show him the poem she’s been writing all day and talk about the books she read.  Are you with me?

Staying with our metaphor, the reason people don’t persist is because they fail to see value in both plumbing and poetry.  The bible is packed full with both plumbing and poetry.  Plumbing wise, there are loads upon loads of principles and applications just waiting to be piped into your life.  Gushers, drips, and trickles, filled with life-giving properties and possibility.  Poetry wise, there are things in there which contain no connection between point A and B.  They just are.  Mysteries.  Yet so beautiful and profound they add rather than take away.  The book would be far less majestic without them.  They stand on top of the walls and sing like piercing trumpets and warble in other places as the strings of a harp under cunning fingers.  Their notes are unintelligible but they resonate with your heart.  They make perfect sense in God’s economy but are hard for us to fathom because of our humanity.

“Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?  She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.  She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors” Proverbs 8:1-2.

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

Drilling down deeper into this metaphor (keep listening to the trumpets and harps as well as the tightening of pipes in the background) plumbing and poetry can be taken to extremes.  That’s probably what causes most of the melt downs in our marriages, friendships, pursuits and hobbies; in our churches and jobs.  It’s so easy to get running hard in one direction plumbing and being practical and checking for leaks.  Meanwhile, life loses its meaning and beauty and profundity.  You get so focused on your work that you tune out from the live-stream.

Or, you get so in tuned with the poetry of what’s streaming out of your speakers that you fail to stick with the craft; the mundane; the details, or plumbing; the connections that have to be made for life to move from point A to point B.  The oil changes, the annual physical, regular church attendance, exercise- the list goes on and on.

Water can’t flow through a broken pipe.  What if you looked at life is a matter of poetry AND plumbing?

Right now, there may be some broken pipes in your life and you’ve got a choice.  Ignore the problem and hope everything is going to be alright or be ready to look for a new place to live when the basement gets flooded.

By now I hope and pray you’re coming alive to the grandiosity of a world filled with both plumbing and poetry.  While you may never whistle while you work, I hope you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for those who do….the artists, preachers, poets and lovers who make the world a nicer place to live.  Life is art and craft.

Remember Stewart?  He changed his mind and decided to stay on course.  His life isn’t perfect, but he’s making progress.  It’s been two years and he’s still mourning the loss of his wife.  In the meantime, he’s learning that God loves him, especially because of his faults not in spite of them.  That doesn’t mean he’s not willing or wanting to change.  He is.  But while he’s doing so, he’s also aware of and basking in a love beyond his wildest dreams!


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