Behind the Poem: “The Weight”
Click here to read the poem “The Weight,” published on this blog on November 27, 2012 .
In his book Conflict or Connection Levi Keidel recounts the remarks of a seminar speaker he went to hear at a Christian conference: “‘Many men don’t want to be happy,’ he said. ‘They’d rather be mad than glad. They’d rather nurse a rankling grudge. They cling to their misery and love it…. When a man harbors a grudge like that for 20 years, it becomes as precious as an heirloom—a prized possession. Every so often he takes it out, dusts it off, looks at it; he couldn’t do without it. To give it up is the supreme sacrifice” (p. 12). What an absurdity—and yet what a striking reality!—that the very things that work our death are the things we so often cling to with all our might.
Keidel later went to talk to the speaker privately and was told, “Pull your grudges out into the open and expose them for the sin that they are. Hebrews 12:15 warns us that harboring a root of bitterness within you will trouble you; it will cause you to fail of the grace of God; it will defile those around you” (p. 12). If a man does not relinquish the bitterness he holds within his soul against another human being, that bitterness will sever him from God, destroy his life, and work woe in the lives of those around him. In short, if you don’t kill sin, it will kill you, and it will kill those around you.
Bitterness is an enslaving weight that I all too often carry unnecessarily. Freedom from this burdensome, back-breaking load is as simple as forgiveness, and yet forgiveness is the last thing I want to do. Probably because forgiveness means I have to let go. Probably because forgiveness means I hand over the fate of those who’ve wronged me to another, and deep down, I’m afraid He’ll show them as much mercy as He’s shown me. How can one guilty yet pardoned murderer rightly call for the execution of another? Both equally condemned. Both equally redeemable.
And so by the power of the Spirit I put to death the bitterness that consumes and enslaves me to my primal passions, and as I look around, it’s truly as if the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. That weight is what this poem is about. My hope is that it encourages you to experience freedom for yourself.
The turn, or volta, of the sonnet comes in a very traditional place: at the beginning of the ninth line. After building a very pitiful image of some poor sap under the unbearable strain of what appears to be a rather enslaving burden, the beginning with line nine I introduce a rather striking truth: The man doesn’t really want to be as free as he makes out.
The poem ends without a clear sense of resolution. The present tense of the last two lines indicates that whether or not the speaker does flee his captive’s domain is still in question. His mind is not made up. Would to God that you might glimpse his plight and settle your own.
Have you read any poems on this blog that you’d like to hear the story behind? Leave me a comment and let me know.