Hopelessly Progressive


There is an excerpt I love from the book “Skeletons on the Zahara” by Dean King (William Heinemann, 2004, p.96). It is a rewritten account of Capt. Riley’s account of the 1815 shipwreck of the US brig Commerce, and the subsequent enslavement of its crewmembers in present-day Western Sahara. The crew stuck in a desperate situation without water the following conversation occurred.

They briefly discussed going to it [a lake mirage], before realizing that it was nothing but ‘the stiking of the rays of the sun upon the dry sand.’ Some of the men were for stopping. Riley, Williams, and Savage urged them to get up, but the officer’s exhortations rang hollow. When asked what he thought they should do, Hogan, the ordinary seaman from Massachusetts, replied, ‘I don’t know— but what’s the use of lying down to die as long as we can stand up and walk?’ It was not what he said so much as how he said it: ‘with perfect apathy,’ Robbins recalled.

Paradoxically, Hogan’s utter absence of enthusiasm motivated the men. No tinseled hope would spur them now, only the dispassionate notion that they might as well walk on simply because they could.

Okay, it may not be an overly inspiring passage to some. I suppose some might find it strangely inspiring, because they kept moving. Some see progress as good of itself. Americans especially have been known for liking change, even when change seems to have little justification. I have heard some that have promoted change (“progress”) simply because change rejects “tradition.” Or change means “not giving up.”

However, change can be as much apathetic as staying the same. Churches and ministries often need to change. But change is not an inherent good. Change can often be a form of giving up.

Yeah… this is probably an uninspiring post for some. I guess I would just say that Hope, Love, and Faith are critical in ministry. However, application of love, faithfulness, and hopefulness is merely those who keep moving. As John Milton said, it also includes those who “stand and wait.” For those who want the longer passage:

Sonnet XIX On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’
I fondly ask.  But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, ‘God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.  His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.’

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