Reflections of a poet, preacher, and contemplative activist

All That Is Breaking

One should never explain a poem in advance. Having said that, I need to at least disclose that I wrote this poem several years ago during a difficult period in my pastoral ministry. Earlier experiences of watching the waves crash against the breakwater not far from our home became a metaphor for managing the mistreatment I was feeling.

Being human means being hurt, in big and small ways. It means acknowledging the pain when it comes, as it does to every life, in order to move through it and beyond it. Often by naming what we don’t understand or the ways we are tempted to play it safe we begin to understand that life is all about risking – love, talent, energy, friendship, certainty, ego, creativity, the inner voice – or it is not living! Often the risking involves letting go.

So, this poem may be an admonition of sorts – I am still unsure what exactly it is saying to me (or perhaps about me).

How about you? What does it say to you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Pacific Ocean at Asilomar

All That Is Breaking

Swells crash against the breakwater,
leaping high in the salty air,
like flying walls of sea water.

We come to watch nature’s powerful display,
moving in just close enough to taste danger,
to take the risk of dread.

Otherwise we are more cautious creatures,
driving the speed limit,
minding our manners,
keeping our heads low,
risking only what we are able.

A day may come
when our own powerful natures confront us,
taking the waves of deep grief
swelling within our fluid bodies,

and watching them wash over
all that is breaking
along the turbulent shores of this life.

Words (c) 2009 Mark Lloyd Richardson
Photo (c) 2012 Dallis Day Richardson

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  1. I like how the subject switches for the last two stanzas. Good metaphor!

    • Thanks, Jessica. I think the natural world lends itself to useful metaphors for this life we live.

  2. I wonder if a wave would ever break without encountering the sand or rocks along the shore. Your verse speaks to our need for one another, and reminds me that an isolated Christian is a paralyzed Christian. We change and grow by encountering one another, rather than turtling in and remaining in our comfort zones.

    • I love that comment “isolated Christian is a paralyzed Christian”
      we are truly made perfect in the Koinonia

    • I agree with your insights here, and add that being in Christian community requires a sense of safety in which it’s possible to meet one another with authenticity. When a damaging experience fractures that safety, it can be difficult, if not impossible to see it repaired. It all depends on the people involved.

      • So we see Paul’s wisdom in 1 Cor 13, in saying love is not something lofty to aspire to, rather something necessary in Christian community and shared worship. We must seek God daily in prayer to offer such love, to make ourselves vulnerable at the all too common risk of being hurt.

  3. I feel a lot of tension in the end of this poem – something is waiting to break, needs to break. It’s like the moment before the catharsis. There’s a rhythm to the poem that is like a wave moving forward and back, but I feel it ends with the wave drawn back and waiting, waiting to go forward – as it needs to.

    • There is definitely tension in the end of the poem. I felt it writing it, posting it, and reading it. It’s as though much still depends on how future painful experiences are handled. Because we do have choices, not always about what occurs in our lives, but about how we respond.

  4. Dallis

    I think Joanna interpreted this in a very insightful way…I love it!

  5. speaks to me of facing our self and our truth. Lovely poem.

  6. Simply stunning…

  7. I really like the switch, too! It’s got that swell of impending danger from the waves and the water, and the obligation of doing what we think we should do in life. It all merges together, I really like this!


  8. Wonderful pieces…..so reflective of life’s journey.

    • Thanks, Robyn. Life’s journey is unknown – a blend of risk and opportunity! We do the best we can.

      • My sentiments exactly… I often say “I am going to do my best, and my best is good enough.” — pretty tough for me not to resist wanting more, but I’m working on it:)

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