A Place to Begin

I don’t subscribe to any particular religion. At least, I don’t currently, but I won’t hold myself to that forever. Who knows, maybe someday I will go back to school and get that masters in Eastern Religious studies I think about now and again, and something there will finally strike a chord.

I did, however, grow up with a staunchly Baptist mother who enlisted her four children for church every Sunday. It’s an experience that so many people I know have had, and I followed the path pretty well beaten down at this point. I believe that path goes something like this:

  1. Traditional parents instill religious principles in their children by raising them in some, any, church.
  2. Those children grow up with full fledged adherence to those principles through childhood and into their early teenage years.
  3. Eventually, they grow to understand the implications of holding those beliefs, especially in the context of the modern society they are growing up in.
  4. The allure from the outside is all too strong, and perhaps the doctrine too unyielding, and they make either a conscious decision to leave the church, or, by settling on certain life goals they want to pursue more, they just strike further with each decision they make.

I was one who made a decision. And since that day when I was… 13, maybe? a lot of my subsequent time has been spent trying to fill that missing guidance with something else. Early on I made a lot of decidedly bad decisions fueled by the “fuck it, everything’s relative” excuse for lack of morals. Since then, I’ve been slowly building a structure of sorts out of concepts that I notice and name in the world around me, or that wiser people than myself have pointed out to me. Now, I let those ideas shape the decisions I make. But that’s a topic that can fill a few blog posts, on another day perhaps.

This post is about the Bible, and one verse in particular. It’s a book I haven’t picked up in over a decade but one I used to know quite well. I can’t quite remember reading this verse as a child, but I know when I saw it somewhat recently, I was struck by it.

The verse is this one:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Zechariah 4:10

For an awfully shallow historical context (I am no historian, but a decent internet researcher), this verse refers to the rebuilding of Soloman’s Temple which was destroyed in the second fall of Jerusalem in the 6th century. In this Old Testament book, the Lord speaks to the Prophet Zechariah through visions and an Angel translator. He promises that his people will return to the holy city, and they will rebuild the temple. It’s another promise recorded from this all knowing, but ever-distant Lord, to his fraught and doubting people–one of the (if not the most) prevalent themes in this book.

This particular quote is from the New Living Translation of the Bible. In other translations, the verse loses this succint-ness of language that I love. That is, the smallness of beginnings, and the joy it sparks in the Creator where elsewhere it may signal discouragement or despair, or so the verse suggests. And the simplicity of a plumb line to represent the vertical lines to heaven, in the distinctly man-made, but awe-inspired structure that the new temple will be someday.

It’s possible this verse struck me because we live in a society that so deeply believes everything should be instant, and constantly innovates to make that more of a reality. I’ve heard that a hundred times in various critiques of modern life and of M-words (millennials, of course), but it is true. What the Lord wanted his people to know, was that the process can be a joy, and a simple beginning is the origin of everything good and everything worth doing.

I read this verse and I knew that I wanted to remember that. Everything in this world has a beginning, and almost every one is small, from the most complex structures in the world to a t-shirt to a blog post. In my case, there are a few projects I’ve begun in the last year or so. First up, is beginning a life on a sailboat. And, from the lens of a recent liveaboard, it doesn’t seem to get much smaller than a 28 foot monohull! So much more on that in posts to come, though.

So, where do you begin? You begin anywhere. Anytime. But you must begin, and better to rejoice in it in that case.

Just a thought.

-Muriel



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