I have been rooting around in a bunch of ideas lately. And continually, my attention is drawn to just one concept: value.
It’s as though I am in my garden and I keep seeing a little, shining piece of gold in the dirt, and as I shift the dirt to find it, it disappears, only to reappear again, winking at me. A charm that’s fallen off someone’s wrist. But doesn’t want to be reattached.
It’s a fascinating concept, value. Now that it has caught my attention, I keep finding it peeking at me wherever I go, whatever I am contemplating. It’s there, facing me.
I keep having the thought: in the end, it’s all about value.
Not The End, mind you. Just the end of whatever it is I am mulling over.
Take slavery, for instance. Slaves, on the whole, considered themselves to have no value. Ironically, it was their effort that made the plantations that they lived on prosper. A printer would never find himself saying that his press had no value. And yet that is what happens to people: they are assigned a certain amount of value, and, for the most part, this assignment is accepted.
A child in school absorbs the value placed on him through the marks on his papers and the scowls on the teachers’ brows.
A child like me, one who watched and listened intently to the priest in front of me, was told that, in terms of the church, the place where I felt at home, I had no value. It was like being a lamb who was told it didn’t belong in the field.
Where else was there for me? Nowhere.
And yet, because of God, I just continued to walk on. Walk past all those black-robed priests who scowled.
For black Americans, it took a little, black lady, too tired to keep walking, to sit down and be arrested for it for the small voice, wait, I have value, I can sit here, to be heard. Or begun to be heard.
It is no small thing, this matter of value. Our sense of value takes on a spiritual quality because it becomes the lens through which we view the world: if we are pushed down, then the world is seen as oppressive and antagonistic. If we are raised up in the eyes of those who assign us our value, then we sing with joy and dance through the rows of corn.
Other people are assessed, in essence, by the way we value ourselves. It is the base of our exchange with the rest of the world.
We hold our sense of value deeper than an emotion, deep within our souls. It becomes that which holds us in our place, unless, that is, something causes us to reevaluate our place and change our sense of our value. Sometimes we rise ourselves up, we face down our critics, and we open our hands to receive our improved status. Other times, we fall back and allow ourselves to be lowered, lowered, until we rest at ground zero.
And this brings me to the question, Why do people not value Christianity? What other system of being whispers to us deep in our souls, no matter who you think you are, I know that you have value. You have value, and you are valued.
In God, there is no need to ask. The answer is always, and will ever be, you are loved.
And so, like so many of my other studies these days, my imagination comes back to the Passion.
The man who offered God to those he touched, and yet was told that was of such low value that he needed to be destroyed.
Eradicated. Like a disease.
You are God. We don’t want you here.
You are of no value to us.
It’s as though we live in another world altogether than the one God wants us to live in. We seem to understand what he wants of us, and we have got a hold of the idea that here we are free to do as we please.
Children whose parents have slipped out and left no caregiver.
And the one thing we are committed to doing is stripping value from God.
This passion to strip God of value was there then.
It is here now.
And yet Jesus let us know what he was all about.
A seed that will die.
But will not be alone. Will not have no value.
He is the one that will die and bear fruit.
The value of God.