I want to find huge shark teeth when I go shark tooth hunting. I’m not out there searching for teeth so small I could fit ten of them on top of a Quarter. I want to find a Mako or a Great White that fills up the palm of my hand and has weight to it. People who say finding tiny little shark teeth is just as satisfying as finding big ones may not be lying, but I don’t think they’re saying the whole truth. If they walked up on a Megalodon you’d hear them singing a different song. But they (we) do get satisfaction from finding tiny shark teeth. It is a different feeling. When I comb the beach walking at my normal pace and letting my eyes search almost on autopilot, finding shark teeth that are teeny tiny makes me feel like I am the master of this beach. It makes me feel like if there is any shark tooth on this beach it can’t elude me. I will find it. How can I doubt this when I walked along at full stride and picked a shark tooth barely bigger than 20 grains of sand out of moving water? It is magical. I’m not even sure how I do it. It must be Spidey-sense. Spidey shark tooth sense. Whatever it is, picking that tooth out of the surf is satisfying because I’m sure I haven’t missed anything big. If my methods work to find this tooth then I’m not missing other things.
Usually the tiny teeth end up at the bottom of a jar, not in a display case, but there’s no doubt in my mind there are plenty of days I would have quit hunting before finding a display case tooth if I hadn’t found one of these little things and renewed my belief that I could find another tooth. It’s the little things that matter. It’s the little things we do that accumulate in our hearts that add up to confidence to go on when nothing significant seems to be happening. The tiny hints of the presence of the Holy are just as full in their ways as the monumental Red Sea splitting displays of power. I want to walk my life pathway with the expectation of finding Jesus in the moving water.
There was a book someone told me to read. It was cool they said. Enlightening. Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read it. I don’t remember it. I guess it didn’t enlighten me. That is probably more a statement about me than the book. Lots of people read it and found it helpful. I couldn’t relate. The journey of the book interested me, but the Zen and the motorcycles didn’t. I use technology that I don’t understand. And I don’t want to understand it. I want it to work. I don’t want to think about how this computer is capturing these key strokes and saving my thoughts in bits and bytes. And the Zen feels the same to me. Too much thinking in little bits and bytes that run down rabbit trails and at the end seem so breathtakingly insignificant or worse, unintelligible. The Zen felt inaccessible to me, like the carburetor on the motorcycle laid out in tiny pieces that only the initiated can see and put together.
I am a Christian and a pastor. I like thinking but I’ve found Saint Paul’s warning that “knowledge puffs up” to be an occupational hazard and a cultural epidemic. Pirsig was writing in a time when technology seemed to be overtaking us, endangering us with becoming functions, pieces of machinery in a godless mechanical universe grinding along with an unseeing merciless drumbeat. My time is overtaken with information. We are in danger of becoming receptacles of pieces of information. Our drumbeat is godless and merciless too. We are googled and googling. We are becoming what we eat, and we eat information. We are can’t be disconnected from the the pipeline of knowledge or we might cease to exist. We are social media. Incoming and outgoing. The puffing up chokes out life. Saint Paul contrasted knowledge with love. “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” Living is love. Love is living.
I noticed how much the puffing up was killing me. Reducing me to posts and likes and comments and followers. I noticed how loveless it felt. I deleted my Facebook account without telling anyone. No fanfare. No goodbye sweet world. Just deleted it. My real world loving living friends asked me where I went. None of the thousand friends outside of them has tried to find me. I’m gone and they don’t notice it. Why should they? We don’t love each other. We don’t live together. We don’t miss each other. I feel good. I feel better. Not smug or superior, just better.
I am loving the people in my real world more now. I am practicing the gospel which is not knowledge but flesh and spirit. I am practicing sabbath which is the art of giving up being God and affirming I can disconnect and not shrivel up and die. And I’m hunting shark teeth which is pursuing something of value because I love it and not because I gain anything from it. By these acts I am becoming myself and this is what God promises to make me.