Book Review: Finding Truth and Beauty

I’m reading a new book, The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus, by Andrew Klavan.

While listening to Klavan being interviewed on the topic, my soul felt immediately soothed, and my mind thirsted for more. So, I quickly preordered this book and was mesmerized when it recently arrived.

His goal in writing this book was to “discover a fresh understanding of the Gospels. By reading the words of Jesus through the life and work of writers such as William Wordsworth and John Keats, Mary Shelley and Samuel Taylor Coleridge–Klavan encountered Jesus in a deeper and more profound way than ever before,” according to the description in the book jacket.

Articulating Shared Struggle

Importantly, The Truth and Beauty traverses a shared struggle that many of us wrestle with, “to understand the Gospels in all their strangeness,” and to navigate toward a life that is “the most creative, the most joyful, and surely the most true,” according to Klavan.

I often wrestle with the seemingly muddied waters of biblical truth when reading and / or studying the Gospels. Whether independently studying or collaboratively discussing in a group, such conversations often leave me feeling both buoyed and a bit baffled. How to apply Jesus’ teachings to my every day life sounds exhilarating on the one hand and oft-impossible on the next.

Klavan illustrates this feeling well when he quotes Jesus saying, “Do not worry what you’ll eat or wear. Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The birds find food. And the lilies are clothed like Solomon in his glory.” Klavan goes on to muse, “What mother with a hungry child could take such counsel? What father who has lost his job could take it?”

As a Christian, we understand and even embrace the premise that worry is not the answer, and that by surrendering ourselves to Jesus, and trusting him, he will take care of it. In my heart, I believe this. However, fully understanding what this means can be difficult, at best, impossible at worst.

Getting to Know the Man Behind the Gospels

To help gird his understanding, Klavan seeks out the Gospels in a way that helps him get to know Jesus, “who he was inside, how he saw the world, how he tried to make us see it.”

In other words, Klavan delves beyond philosophy to get to know the man.

According to Klavan, the voices of the English Romantic poets spoke to him. He says, it was “their poetry that broke through the quirks and limitations of mere reason, and let me feel the savior as a presence, a man whom I might truly come to know.”

He goes on to explain his why behind thinking this, including diving into the failed utopian revolutions of these poets’ age, which mirror our own present culture. He also links the project of the English Romantics to his own project rereading the Gospels.

Describing the Romantics’ “age of unbelief” which aligns with our present-day situation, he goes on to encourage, saying that these poets “either accidentally or guided by a hand they could not perceive–blazed a literary trail back from the ruins of old faith … toward the original vision that Christ delivered not only in the Sermon on the Mount but in all the words of that invisible biography that hovers in the credal silence between his miraculous birth and his suffering death.”

Klavan describes how almost unintentionally, “these poets rediscovered what is provable in the living of it: that the deepest experience of human existence, the most joyful, and surely the most true is the experience taught to us by the incarnate Word of God and bought for us by his crucifixion and resurrection.”

Exhilaration for “What’s Next”

I’m 50 pages into Klavan’s book and to say I am enthralled is an understatement.

Arising early this morning before the commitments of my career storytelling job have consumed me, has enabled time to imbibe in nourishing words and insights.

With poetry at the root of my passions, the idea of melding biblical wisdom with poetic insight in order to more joyfully experience my life as a Christian woman–in order to gain a better understanding of the man behind the Gospels–is exhilarating.

I’m excited for what’s next as Andrew Klavan unfolds his self-discovery and learnings so that I may also benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of the words of Jesus.

I’m also excited at the prospect of enriching my faith, increasing my purpose and ultimately, exuding my word of the year, which is peace. For, without peace amid the turmoil of the day-to-day I do believe all faith becomes muddled and frustrated. With peace at the core of my being, there is room for hope and joy and biblical truth to cultivate and flourish.

-Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

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