Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Work in Progress by Liz Manning

When I was a teenager, my Mum used to wear an embarrassingly loud green sweatshirt complete with a cartoon yellow tortoise and the words ‘Please be patient – God hasn’t finished with me yet’. In fact, she continued to wear it into old age until I got over my embarrassment.

But I love that sentiment: the idea of promised improvement and illusive perfection just somewhere up ahead. We are, to borrow a frequently used writing acronym, God’s WIP.

I write poetry. For me a poem often starts with the juxtaposition of a few words, a rhythm of alliteration stuck like a scratched record in my head, or as a barely grasped wisp of an idea on the edge of my mind. My poems are not like Aphrodite, rising fully formed from the foam – they go through cycles of writing, revising, and rewriting. So many times, I have to stop, reread, and correct in order to get both the details and the overall flow right. I’ve already changed this paragraph about 18 times!

Frequently a draft poem gets put to bed, then shaken out and refined a day or a month later. Poems I thought were finished even years ago can still be tweaked. I have to continue to experiment with adding or removing, reordering and remoulding before I am happy with it. This year I let some of my poems out for the first time for a more public airing, which led to more prompts for improvement.

I think, to misquote Thomas Edison, my poems are 1% inspiration and 99% editing.

The word ‘poem’ comes from the Greek ‘poiema’, literally meaning ‘a thing created’, its earlier variant from ‘poiein’ meaning ‘to compose’. In Genesis, God composes His own creation poem, editing and embellishing the world over 7 days. ‘Poiema’ is the word used to describe us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians ch 2 v10, usually translated ‘handiwork’:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Sometimes in this verse, ‘poiema’ is translated as ‘masterpiece’. What a thought – that we are each God’s masterpiece! Now I rarely feel like a masterpiece but what if we used our writerly word ‘poem’?

“We are all God’s poem”.

I love the thought that God sees me as some kind of work of art, especially as that’s not a term I would use to describe myself. But the Great Word Himself has created me as His poem. The One who used words to bring the universe into being and sent His Word to be the light of men created me and you as His poem(s) to the world.

And that leads me back to my Mum’s sweatshirt. God hasn’t finished with me yet: He is still patiently editing, revisiting bits that aren’t quite right, moving things round, trying out a new part here and there. I am God’s Work In Progress. My life is God’s poem.

About the Author

Being the only female in her household and captain of a Boys’ Brigade Company, Liz Manning sometimes thinks her autobiography would be called “Surrounded by Men”. Working as an Occupational Therapist at her local hospice, however, balances this out.

Liz writes for her church magazine, has had a book review published in Woman Alive, and enjoys the challenge of making BB Devotions challenging, relevant, and interactive for both boys and staff. This year she found the courage to share some of her poetry in the closed Facebook group ‘Poetic Countdowns’.

Liz has started writing more regularly with two aims: to find a way to use her poetry beyond her immediate circle; and to develop her Bible Story Gyms* into a full resource for BB nationally. Her idea of heaven is escaping into a good book with a bottomless jug of Rwandan coffee and a large supply of (as yet uninvented) calorie free Galaxy chocolate. You can find her on Facebook.


  1. Interesting post, Liz. The derivations of words are always useful - I didn't know where 'poem' came from. I'm in the Poetic Countdowns group, too. Sue

  2. We are all God's poem? That has made my day! I love it when we find literary metaphors used in the Bible, because it makes me feel like I'm actually doing something meaningful with my life!