Free Your Inner Nightingale


Have you heard this term before?  At times, I fear it has accurately described me. One of the meanings is “to possess a negative attitude.”  It’s a condition of pessimism. The glass isn’t even 1/2 full.

Slowly read the following poem by one of my favorite poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). It is entitled Exaggeration.

WE overstate the ills of life and take
Imagination (given us to bring down
The choirs of singing angels overshone
By God’s clear glory) down our earth to rake
The dismal snows instead, flake following flake,
To cover all the corn; we walk upon
The shadow of hills across a level thrown,
And pant like climbers: near the alder brake
We sigh so loud, the nightingale within
Refuses to sing aloud, as else she would.
O brothers vainly, in a plaintive mood,
The holy name of GRIEF!–holy herein
That by the grief of One came all our good.

Perhaps there are both objective and subjective aspects to a poem. If so, it is appropriate to ask two questions while reading a work: What does this poem mean? & What does this poem mean to me? I sought to answer those questions when I read Browning’s words.  I love how it commences: “WE overstate the ills of life…” The capitalized “WE” is Elizabeth’s way of  including herself in the mass of humanity which is naturally prone to constant complaint. I trust you have clearly seen that propensity in  your own life.  I sure have seen it in mine.  “We sigh so loud.”

I listened to a sermon a couple days ago and the pastor told the story of someone on his staff visiting a member of their congregation.  The man is the owner of restaurant.  When the pastor arrived at the restaurant, he asked the man how he was doing.  The man replied, “I am on this side of the dirt eating BBQ.”

Life could be worse.  The nightingale within began to sing.

Has your nightingale been singing lately?  Or, do you need to be reminded of God’s command in Philippians 2:14 – “Do all things without grumbling and disputing.”  Those words of Paul are found within a context which compliments Browning’s last line.

“By the grief of One came all our good.”

In other words, due to the sufferings of Christ, I have been greatly blessed.  I am the recipient of much good.  I need to be thankful for that incredible list!  I need to be positive because all of the positive things which have happened for me and in me and even through me.  I need to allow the nightingale to sing.

“I am on this side of the dirt eating BBQ.”


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