“Unless you are educated in metaphor, you are not safe to be let loose in the world.” ― Robert Frost
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. Allegory, trope, parable, symbol and emblem are all ways in which we seek to explain or understand the deeper truths that hide behind the literal simplifications that no longer suffice. Our ever growing curiosity and inquisitiveness demands a greater connection to the deeper things of life. The human quest for that illusive idea of genuine truth finds clarification by employing the language of metaphor, which asks bigger questions of that which remains unanswered.
The religious traditions have long employed metaphorical language in order to remind us that the mystical truths of the universe are more than scientific deductions or literal readings of sacred texts. Down through the ages the prophets continued to remind us that the divine continues to re-incarnate its voice in the essence of all things so that that we might find solidarity in its sacred purpose. Metaphor gives our spiritual texts a new reading, a new voice into our ongoing maturation and evolution. Jesus highlighted this in his skilful story telling, reimagining the truth with parabolic genius. If we were to simply adhere to his supreme example by learning the art of story telling we might find our audience more interested in what we have to say. Unfortunately we have succumbed to propositional proof texting and doctrinal dissertation, further alienating our potential hearers.
Love as the ultimate metaphor for God does not finds itself caught up in the art of legalese, a right and wrong modality that focuses on behaviour as the arbiter of true faith, but lives into the poetic proclamation of acceptance as the true heart of a loving God. The literal reading of law will only tell you who is on the right or wrong side of the judgement ledger whereas love which has grace as a consort is constantly finding new ways to affirm our inclusion in the grand narrative.
The creation stories in the Bible aren’t intended to be taken literally. They’re not science; they’re metaphors. They provide meaning, not facts. -Matthew Fox
For some of you this quote will challenge the traditional way in which you have been taught to read the Bible, but please don't get hung up on the word ‘literal’, instead focus in on the word ‘meaning’.
Our sacred text will forever be a beacon of hope for those who want to read it to find meaning, which will always hold more sway over right beliefs or accurate factuality. Right beliefs have caused more arguments and divisions than we can shake a stick at but meaning has brought us together on so many deep levels. Love works with meaning because it is flexible, romantic, and intimate. The law is important but only because we refuse to put love first, retreating back into our fearful default of comparison, competition and climbing.
Metaphor is our creative companion who wants to help us re-language our lives in order that the story of who we are can flourish and fulfil its destiny. The sacred art of story telling, poetry and song writing are all dependent on metaphor, mediums that enrich our quest for meaningfulness, providing us with new answers to the age old unanswered questions.