The child went forth

Hi friend. I hope you are having a good day and that beauty finds you. There is a Walt Whitman poem at the end of the post, so if you read to the end, that will certainly be the case.

The biggest question I have going into this daily blogging thing is – what will I write about. The Red Letter Year posts had an immediate structure. I divided the Gospel into daily readings spread over a year and everything I wrote (well most of it) was in direct response to the reading for each day. But there’s no easy layout here. Just a wide open expanse of days facing the blank computer screen. There is a lot going on in the world. I could spend my days reacting to all that. But I’m pretty sure that violates my other New Year’s resolution to layoff theological arguments online. I am working on a few essays on important topics and I’ll post them here when they’re ready. But this daily thing isn’t about that. It’s not about presenting what I think so much as figuring out what I think. Sort of like I’m journaling in public. Except I’m not extroverted so I’m not going to think of it like that again. Yikes. But I am letting you, dear reader, into my process because I’ve come to think that this is the most important thing. More than sharing with you what I think, I want to share with you how I think.

One thing I’m becoming more aware of over the past few years is how deeply how I think has been influenced by all the components and experiences of my life, and, by extension, the lives and experiences of those closest to me. To give one example (that I might elaborate on some other day), my dad’s experience in Vietnam had a significant impact on my childhood and formation.  All of this really hit home the other night when I read my boys a poem at bedtime, Walt Whitman’s “There was a Child went Forth.” We go forth having become all that we experience. That seems both true and scary to me at the same time. I feel both a deep sense of gratitude that this is the case and a deep need to trust that God works this process for my best good. I also feel the weight of responsibility for those I am helping to make. If it’s true that we make each other (and I believe it is), that in itself is a high calling to make each other well. I felt a deep sense of conviction as I read this to my boys. I also feel it as I share it with you. Let’s commit to make each other well as the Spirit enables.

THERE was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.


The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,        

And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,

And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,

And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,

And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.


The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;

Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,

And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;

And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,

And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,

And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,

And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,

And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.


His own parents,

He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,

They gave this child more of themselves than that;

They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.


The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;

The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;

The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;

The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,

The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,

Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?

Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?

The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,

Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,

The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,

Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,

The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,

The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,

The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.