Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

For Lea the concept of a “counter-story” is inherent in the sin-struck nature of human life, and the possibility of redemption is crucial to his belief that salvation is never completely beyond the reach of humans. It is necessary for him to delineate, with as much power as he can summon, the pain and torment of human existence so that he can demonstrate the strength of a faith that can counter this. His youthful expectation that “to make a soul—I could tell!—would be so easy” has been confounded, but the degree of difficulty has made the process worth much more. Throughout Ghost Pain, Lea has placed sufficient signs of his faith, as in the quote from Psalm 40, “—and He hath put a new song in my mouth,” which indicates a feeling of hope amid the darkest circumstances that sustains the man who “walked out” when he asks plaintively, “Where in hell’s the justice?

This is most apparent in the third section in “Broken Haven.” The personal failures that have damaged his family are repaired by moments such as his feeling pride in his daughter when she “performed ’One Little Candle’ at the start of the service,” an occasion that is summarized by his declaration that “we have to believe” because “If God be for me, whom then shall I fear?” This belief stems from a conviction that there is “one more safe tiny place amid the great unsafe.” Lea creates powerful lyric evocations of this small secure spot in poems such as “Talent from Birth,” with its vision of how “Everything out in the Yankee woods/ recalled the hour of its creation”; “Children, Singing,” with its pleasure in “The center of a universe now blessed,/ A childlight charging every note and rest”; “Noon for Good,” with its plea “Make me to hear joy and gladness that the bones/ which thou hast broken may rejoice.” These enable the poet to reach for (in “Suite in Mudtime”) a place “To linger a while. In peace,” which he now realizes is “all that I’ve wanted.”