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I had another blog started for this week when I was absolutely arrested by a new poem from my friend, the brilliant poet, Jane Zwart. (Somewhere she is balking at such language, but we must name talent when we see it!) It appeared first in Contemporary Verse 2 before I saw it reposted on Twitter.

Coming up to an election here in the US, as we are, her poem seemed especially timely and important to share:

A country, then, is a construct–which does not mean that it is false, but rather that it was made and has to continue to be made again and again. There must be a deliberateness. And attention must be paid to unmakings–sometimes, perhaps, for the good, but other times, perhaps, bringing irreparable loss.

But we are inheritors only–and always of an already vanished land, whether (as the poem makes clear) that of family or of nation. Walls do not stand, boundaries are unsettled, no parent lingers on with us unchanging. “Home,” Elizabeth Bishop once quipped, “wherever that may be.”

That unsettlement seems profoundly Christian. If we recognize ourselves as strangers, if we name our primary identity as perpetual spiritual refugees, like Adam debarred from his original home, then how might that transform how we view and treat one another? How might this change the way we vote, the policies we support?

We know at least intellectually that, as Christ-followers, we belong to a higher citizenship–even as so many Christians now seem to find their chief allegiance in party or ideology. This election might be a good time to examine where home really lies.

©️Jane Zwart, “Go Back to Your Own Country.” First appeared in Contemporary Verse 2

Image: Annie Spratt @Unsplash

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.


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