What You Let Them Do

I watch their ambling machines,

and I hope you dance,

I hope you surprise—

people will tie strings to you if you let them;


don’t let me tie strings to you.

People will make a machine out of you,

fine-tune the life out of you.

Perfectionism is an illusion

written by people who are afraid of mistakes—

by people who are so afraid of falling

they never learned how to fly.

And you can let them lead you—

you can let them own you.

You will walk along the line they paint for you,

weep as you march on faithfully toward a promised land;

you’ll never reach the pedestals they sit on—

you will never touch them

never know them,

never climb the pyramids they set in front of you,

but they will put you on a pedestal made of eggshells,

and you will break for wanting something you can’t quite name.

You will trade your heart,

with trembling hands,

for a new set of commands

they have written,

and you will obey.

They will build boxes around you,

force you to stay inside picket fences,

cut you back so you’ll never outgrow their garden of souls.

They will demand your soul

in ransom for your destiny,

and you will give it to them,

afraid of the darkness they profess to shield you from.

They promise to love you,

but they only love what you can do—

what they can make of you.

They will make you into a machine,

etch their names into your skin with their words—

with their eyes they will claim you,

parade you,

flaunt you to inspire jealousy.

You will be the bait that draws another in,

and when you stumble,

when you begin to break,

they will throw you away

when another outperforms,


and outplays you.

They will make you into a machine,

and you will lose your greatest strength:

being human.

So do not let mechanics lead you;

follow, instead, the metallurgists—the smiths, the artisans.

It will be harder to follow them,

for they tie no strings and paint no lines.

They will not tell you where to go,

but by fire and water,

they will refine you.

By their sweat and their strength—

by your side, they will brave infernos;

they will endure the deluge.

And they will shape you, if you let them.

They will pour themselves into you, but only if you let them.

They will touch your heart if you permit them;

and they will offer you theirs.

Accept it.

They will ask for your hands and your feet.

They will ask that you choose the road,

the pace,

how far you want to go,

and along the way, they will build your promised land,

and I dare you to let them.

I dare you to let them feed your fires;

I dare you to taste their passion—

their love is fiercer than any darkness that threatens you,

and they will choose to fight for you at your worst—

swing after swing,

you will see the scars that line their arms from your enemies

and you will hurt them—you will make mistakes,

you will shy away from the fire and water,

and they will wait for you.

They will not throw you away.

In all the moments,

when there is nothing but a ghost of a vision for what you might become,

they will wait for you to grow.

They will push you to your limits, and they will fearlessly face theirs.

Seasons will come and go—

good and bad,

and you will ache with exhaustion but never sorrow.

Sometimes their honesty will sting,

but you couldn’t find anyone more trustworthy.

They will not hide on pedestals,

and you will know them as they are.

They will tell you their stories,

share their strengths and flaws.

They will make mistakes, and they will hurt you,

and you will find the strength to forgive them easily.

When they are finished with you,

you will cry when they say goodbye—

and they will say goodbye.

With heartbreaking and unpolished sincerity,

they will let you go on to whatever comes next—

but they will never replace you;

they will never stop loving you—

the one they loved not because of what you could be

but because of who you are:


Follow the one who sees your value

before your contribution,

who invests in you

without the promise of the profits lining their pockets.

Follow the one who sees you and calls you beautiful

before the one who sees the work of your hands and calls it beautiful.

Follow the one who asks

before the one who demands.

Follow the one you find yourself loving—

the one who cherishes your heart—

and pity the one you fear;

when you watch their ambling machines,

hope they learn to dance.

Profile photo of Sarah Spradlin
If you’ve ever emailed us at KP, you’ve probably “met” Sarah—a passionate storyteller with a huge heart that loves Jesus and everyone she meets. Sarah grew up in Georgia with her mom, dad, and little sister, Merry, where she attends the University of Georgia, majoring in International Affairs and Agriculture Communication. When she graduates, Sarah wants to help people all over the world succeed in the agriculture industry and tell the all-important story of the farmer. She joined the Kingdom Pen Team as Secretary in September 2013 and now serves as the Director of Community Happiness. Sarah has been homeschooled, private-schooled, and graduated from Madison County High School in May 2015. She attended Summit in July 2015. She’ll read pretty much anything (if she had to pick, though, her favorite author would be Frank Peretti) and has tried her hand at pretty much every kind of writing out there, though she likes writing fiction and poetry best. But because writing bios is a struggle, if you really want to get to know Sarah, shove some words in her general direction via the Forum, on one of the many social medias down below, or through the KP e-mail: kingdompenmag@gmail.com.
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  1. Seriously, Sarah, this is the best free verse.

  2. I never thought that I would love poetry the way I do now, or even try to write a poem myself. I never understood free verse and why it didn’t rhyme, but something changed because if I ever had to pick a favorite poem, it would be this one. <3 You, my dear friend, are so gifted when it comes to words. Never stop writing. 😉

  3. This was seriously amazing. So deep and beautiful. Loved it!

  4. YES. They said it already, but this is beautiful, Sarah. Your poems inspire me in a a different kind of way. I’m not so great with free verse myself, but someday I want to write poetry with this amount of depth and truth in it.

  5. This is so beautiful! Thank you for writing this!

  6. Thank you for reading! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Audrey!

  7. Wow. This is just…so amazing and beautiful. I love it so much.

  8. I love it. I love it. I love it.

  9. W.O.W. What everyone else said. I don’t read a lot of free verse, but when I do I generally don’t like it. Yours are different; they flow, and have MEANING. I love it.

  10. Just beautiful, Sarah! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  11. Emma Travis says:


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