When I sent this to a friend, he said “I have questions.” Yes. I imagine that this “poem” raises questions. Perhaps my friend has more questions than the ones I’ll try to answer here….
First, let me include what I wrote on social media when I posted this, along with the hashtags:
The Phantom Terrace is a real place. I’ve been there. And gratitude’s a real grace. I’ve been there too. Both are narrow ways.
#remembrance #gratitude #hope
As you can probably guess from the hashtags, this is more about the positive emotion of gratitude than it is about other, negative emotions.
Don’t read too much into the first two stanzas. I was mainly establishing the setting of a real place. One thin line of grass, growing on the ledge, stretches from one side of the mountain’s rock face to the other. Thus the “smile” imagery.
There’s a lot of ambiguity in the third stanza. The greatest ambiguity is in the phrase “unforgiving treachery.” Traversing the steep face of a mountain — even on a ledge like the Phantom Terrace — is treacherous. One slip and the fall could be fatal. It’s treacherous terrain. That is an unforgiving treachery. So, in one sense, it refers to the real danger of a real place.
“Unforgiving treachery” could also refer to what we experience interacting with fellow sinners. I was especially low when I wrote this. I was thinking about how little I can rely on some people some of the time.
“Unforgiving treachery” is also a backwards way of referring to how I can be unforgiving, and how treacherous that unforgiving attitude can be.
Regardless of what “unforgiving treachery” refers to, it is dangerous. But when I think of things and people for which I’m grateful… there is safety in that emotion. Today, I was grousing to my wife about the many disappointments I had experienced in the last 48 hours. She was patient. She let me grouse. But all that grousing was unproductive. In the midst of my complaints I did remember a fellow who this very morning demonstrated thoughtfulness, patience, kindness, reliability: Joe. What an uplifting thing to think of that brother’s attitudes and actions! Being grateful for him is definitely NOT a treacherous emotion. It gives me hope. It gives me incentive to persevere, to myself become more thoughtful, more patient, more kind… even more reliable. In short, gratitude is an emotion that safely takes me from this place of anger and disappointment to the place I long for: the fulfillment of Jesus’ intentions for us in Eternity. Gratitude is a long Phantom Terrace. Thank God it’s there!
NOTE: I did not take the background photo, but “borrowed” it from a website. If/when I publish this in a book, I’ll need to get permission to use it. Or maybe I’ll just drive up to Colorado and take my own photo of the Phantom Terrace.