Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: September 2021

Lost and Found Resurrection – A Sonnet

The necklace in question

I was dumbstruck when I discovered the little resurrection pendant I had lost at least a year earlier in the parking lot of Circle of Hope’s building in South Jersey. I had lost it and looked everywhere in my house but never even began to look elsewhere. Yet, there it was right next to where I always park my car when I’m at the office. Granted, I hadn’t been to the office as much in a quarantine year when death felt so close and thus resurrection reminders seemed especially necessary. There were many reasons to feel dead, as there always are. Our collective proximity to death made communal in ticker tape Covid-19 death tolls, the killing of black people by police in broad daylight, the unavoidable weakening of a tight knit community’s bonds, were foremost for me. This discovery of Jesus, his abundant life shining in the harsh July heat, present for months in a spot in which I had, after returning to an office work flow, habituated for regular sulking, was a confounding dagger driven between my ribs. I think I might still be clutching it, afraid to remove this potent symbol lest I bleed out spiritually. I don’t know what to make of it, but I want to make it mean more than simple happiness. I didn’t sweep the house, dig the field or search in every market, and yet this pendant is fully coin, treasure and pearl. The fact that I wasn’t looking is the best part. Utterly undeserved grace!

Below is my sonnet  celebration à la Luke 15

The Parable of the Lost Coin
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It is much more than this and much more than these fourteen lines…

Lost and Found Resurrection

Thank God this building makes a shady stoop
To sit on, idly minding more than ought
To be in mind, loop upon loop on loop.
For here one day, down deep into my fraught
With doom filled thoughts and failing hope, I stared
At rubble in a crumbly parking lot;
When from the asphalt past the umbra glared
A silver gleam long-lost upon this spot.
It was the pendant of stone rolled away!
My resurrection reminder misplaced
Had slipped off its chain one similar day;
And empty tomb lay witnessing a waste
Of one year-long, gray weariness, here all along,
When Jesus felt so absent but Lo! I was wrong.

 

You can listen to me read it here

 

I refuse to know everything!

It seems that if I am going to care about anything, I have to care about everything. The message that has flooded the basement and whole house of my imagination is “all or nothing.” How did this happen?

We (maybe humans; definitely North Americans) have a fascination with technique and expertise. Everyone could be an expert if they just practiced the prescribed technique for long enough; or, and this is more often the path that I have seen taken, everyone can be an expert if they convince enough people to call them one. We serve experts with honorifics and we rarely scrutinize their findings, usually because we could not understand their findings very well if we attempted it, but also because no one cares about the details very much, and those who do can’t agree about them anyway.

We prefer allusion and trust. This is because humans were made to be faithful creatures. Our instinct is to believe. Experts are demigods in whom we place our trust. Fortunately or unfortunately, today, there are enough to go around. Each household can place their small figurines of choice in their opinion’s shrine; or you can put in the effort to become divinized yourself.

This potential for godhood puts all of us at the trailhead of an infinitely branched path of knowledge. What’s your excuse for not figuring everything out, if anything is possible? We have the internet, don’t we? TikTok provides us with 30 second sermons by the tens of thousands every day does it not? Apply yourself! Get out of the car and hike the trailhead already. And if you don’t, well then we’re not listening.

Progress, the most worshipped god of the past 200 years, and the one to whom the United States was given in infant sacrifice due to the auspicious moment of that nation’s birth, has many prophets, priests and kings striving for our allegiance in ever more creative ways. Things must be getting better even when they are getting worse. The breakneck speed of science and technology leaves little room for contemplation. We do most things because we can, not because we should. “SHOULD” is a taboo, and I understand why you might avoid it, but without it there is usually only “CAN”. That’s scary.

Progress’s “CAN” demands the everything that arrests my capacity to care. Unless I’m an expert no one will listen to me. My misgivings are meaningless unless I can demonstrate my following. My wonderings about the wisdom of what we’re doing are laughable unless I’m officially notable on Twitter. And certainly, my upside down prophecy from Jesus’ stories and sayings about the kingdom of God are silly unless I can get them through the Senate.

NO.

I refuse to know everything. I can’t and I won’t, and I don’t want to be an expert either. Growing in the wisdom of Christ means I aspire to leave behind the fierce child-need to know — to know anything really — let alone everything. The paths of progress, no matter how multitudinous all lead to destruction. That which would make an idol of you or anyone in the guise of expertise; that which would discount your sense of something-more for lack of evidence; that which would make you feel small because you are not gargantuan; all these, and even much of what has been carefully constructed by Christians will be destroyed someday soon.

This is the confounding wisdom of the cross which I am more compelled to cling to today than I have yet been.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

There’s someone I can worship. I recognize this God with the deepest within me. That in me which so easily slips into worship of lesser deities was made to see itself in the reflection of God’s human face.