She’d called me over to help, knowing I was an English minor. I found her staring at the lines over and over as if her eyes could pull out extra sentences for the college assignment.
I suggested she talk about the way the poet created the proper environment to convey its meaning.
“You mean how he describes everything? There’s no real description at all.”
I asked her why she chose the poem to begin with.
“Well, I like the night and I like winter and this was just the perfect poem.”
I then asked her what she thought the poem was about.
She gave me a quizzical look. “It’s just about a winter night. This guy’s on a night ride with his horse and they stop to see how beautiful everything is, but they can’t watch it all night because he’s too busy.” She slapped her pencil down on the desk. “I just don’t know how to write ten pages talking about how cool night-time or winter are.”
I offered a few other suggestions like why this night was the darkest of the year and why the last line repeated.
As you may have guessed by now, the poem in question was “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost.
I explained how the subject was contemplating suicide, how he wished to be forever free of the city and obligations and to sleep the forever sleep.
“Oh. My. Gosh.” Her jaw dropped as she scanned the lines again, shaking her head. “I never would have seen that in a million years.”
I asked if she now felt like she would be able to have ample material to write about.
“Oh, hell yes.”
It’s amazing to see the light come on inside someone’s head. When someone has read and reread and pondered, but just didn’t quite get what the bigger picture.
And Frost’s poem is a mere sixteen lines, not much longer than 100 words.
When I meet people who are so rock solid in their conviction of how to interpret scripture I think back to this night when my friend was so transformed by having been asked to look at something differently.
Certainly she’d read the words to the point she nearly had the poem memorized, yet failed to take that one step beyond.
Parts of scripture are no different for us. Stories we’ve heard since childhood get into our memory to the point we feel there’s no way we could have overlooked anything in the message; however, considering the Bible has roughly 800,000 words – a few more than Frost’s poem – there should always be time to look at things anew.
Seems to me there’s no shortage of what the Bible has to say if we’re willing to let it speak.