Too Poor for Holy Books

I would never write a blogpost or a blessed thing if I thought I had to make sense of everything I want to express.  I hope that regular readers and people who know me in real life have observed that I’m pretty comfortable with ambivalence and that I say often that life is messy and that everything can’t be wrapped up prettily with a big bow.

So today I’m merely expressing  poignancy.  I’m not following that expression with meaning or a moral.  I’m not prescribing.  I’m not fixing.  I’m not doing anything but stating a big, fat “what is.”

And “what is” is this: sometimes people have almost nothing, and they’re not asking for the world, but they are trying to cling to something transcendent and meaningful, and even that is tenuously held or taken away.  I know, I know… you need an example before this will make sense.  Here are two:

Once when I was a teenager I went to K-Mart on Christmas Eve.  And I saw a man holding a small child, and he was trying to figure out if he had enough money to buy a Bible. And of course I was there for the umpteenth stocking stuffer for, probably, some boyfriend of three weeks.  And I was stabbed (and still am) by the inequity in the world if this father truly could not afford a Bible on Christmas Eve.  All I could think to do was to casually drop five dollars on the floor near him and rush away.  So that’s what I did.

Yesterday the man in the K-Mart came rushing back into my mind, when on a walk I ran across this sign:


What's the whole story here?


Can you read it okay?  It says, “Please, I am homeless.  Return my Scriptures (Holy Books).  You may keep all else.  They are 18 years old.  They mean the world to me.  Put ’em by the church front door please.  May God bless you.  He will.”

I just stood there dumbfounded on the sidewalk.  Some homeless guy (or gal) got robbed of (I assume) the precious little that they have… and they’re not whining over losing a scarf or some material possession.  They want their holy books back. Where is the justice in this world?

Did you see that show “Kid Nation?”   A group of kids lived in a western town together and worked at living in a democratic society.  They faced choices related to leadership and governance, chores needing to be done, how to allocate resources, and how to mediate conflict.  Sometimes they were faced with options of receiving something practical or having something luxurious.  In one episode the group chose holy books (an assortment for various faiths) over a miniature golf course.  It was rather stunning in a way… to see all those kids choosing the transcendent over the immediate, the existential over the material.

I really do believe that all of us know that there is something beyond us, and that we want it.  Of course there are a myriad of ways that people would define that, and of course many would not agree with me that the longing is even there.  I often think of this with a verse from the Bible that says, “He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

What I’m not sure of today is how to get past the deep sadness at acknowledging that although some people seek the transcendent, or want nothing so much as to have access to holy scriptures, they still can’t bring about that desire.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 goes on to say that “no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  So at times when the mysteries and the aches are too big, I choose to focus not on what I can’t understand or fathom, but on God whose nature is goodness. And as I focus on him, I also plead for those people whose hunger for the transcendent is palpable.  I plead with God for them to be fed with the richest of fare, beyond what they thought their money could buy or backpack could hold.


~ by Cary on December 21, 2010.

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