Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Having established the range of God’s interactions in everyday life and people’s attraction to or need for the idea of God, Jarman spotlights his thesis that because no one can live up to the ideal faith described in Scripture, the quest to believe is as important and somehow more real than believing without questioning. In the poem “The Last Supper,” the speaker considers the many imitations in life and art of the Last Supper to be found in suburban houses and suggests that the Last Supper is the story of a family trying to reconcile its competing interests, just as the Christian is called to reconcile or balance faith and reason. Belying the apparently happy gathering of the family is the “loneliness of God,” whose will is not fully known or embraced. In the final poem of the book, “The Worry Bird,” the speaker remembers how his parents told him to give all his cares to the worry bird, a garage-sale bird statue that sat in his bedroom. The bird takes on the traits of the Holy Spirit in the mind of the mature poet, who has been acculturated to pass his cares on to God.

In Jarman’s poetry, little in the world makes sense. Things are constantly changing—his children grow up, his parents age, he travels from place to place, and time passes while death hovers relentlessly—as the Christian tries to reconcile competing interests in the material and the spiritual worlds. Yet, through all the uncertainties, Jarman remains optimistic, writing that if and when God’s kingdom comes, “We’ll greet him as children would have done,” with cares absorbed by the worry bird and with innocence, steadfastness, clarity, and purity of heart.