Practicing Resurrection

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In less than two weeks, I’ll be out of a job, out of a home, and hundreds of miles from my nearest comfort zone. I resigned from a job I love, the best job I’ve ever had. I told the little old lady I rent from that I won’t be renewing the lease and I’ve written my last rent check. I sold everything but my pickup, my motorcycle, and a few boxes of books, tools, clothes, and sundries. If it doesn’t fit in the pickup, it’s not coming with me. I dismantled my unfinished sailboat and saw her bones thrown on the burn pile. That was the hardest part of the entire thing. The boat that I’d put so much sweat and work into was too big to come with me, too unfinished to sell. I nearly cried when I took the saw to her and cut her apart.

I wish I could say I had a concrete reason for having done these things but the truth is that I don’t. People ask me what I’m going to do and for the most part, I just wince and shrug, “Time for change.”

In one of Wendell Berry’s poems he says, “…every day do something that won’t compute.” This qualifies. A couple of months ago when I made the decision to move, I felt very strongly that I was being led by God. It was the culmination of months of prayer. Today I feel like I’m standing at the top of a huge flight of steps and saying to God, “Next Friday I’m going to fling myself down these stairs. You’d better catch me.” It feels like I’m daring God to let me break my neck.

The trouble is that I’m pretty sure God has every intention of letting me fall, break my neck, and lay on the floor dying while I wonder what I was thinking. I expect to be hungry a lot. I expect anxiety over where the rent money is going to come from. I expect to have to take jobs I hate because they pay the bills. I expect a lot of things that won’t be enjoyable. But I also expect resurrection.

The last line of that poem says, “Practice resurrection.” That phrase has been with me a lot these past days and next week when I drive away from everything that makes me comfortable, it’ll be with me then. I’ve had plenty of practice in the past. I wish I could say I was getting better, or that it was getting easier, but each time I’ve flung myself down those steps it’s been a brief moment of flight followed by a bone-snapping crash. It hurts to die but each time I’m raised again and I’m something new, something I don’t recognize, something I never expected. I’ve gotten no better at avoiding the pain, but maybe, just maybe I’m getting better at trusting in the coming resurrection.

When I get where I’m going, I look forward to laying out that sailboat again. I learned a lot the first time through. I’ve honed my skills and I have my tools. I trust in the blueprints and I understand them better this time around. Though she’ll be the same, she’ll be cut from new wood. She’ll be finer than she was before and built by surer hands. There will be new problems to overcome, more blistered hands and cut fingers but one day, when I’ve bled for her enough, she’ll sail.

Contender_sailing_dinghyManifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
By Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


27 Comments

  1. Kory

    Mmm what a powerful poem. It’s like an instruction manual for living in the U.S. Quotable, to say the least. As for you, Pete, the Lord make His face to shine upon you. I’m anxious to hear the words spawned by your coming experiences! Thanks for sharing it all with us.

  2. Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    I hope you’re moving to Nashville. Greatly appreciate your writing. I’m also glad you are not politically correct enough to cease referring to your sailing vessel as a “she”.

  3. Jonah G.

    It’s interesting how the narrative you gave about the sailboat and it’s eminent “resurrection” parallels your current journey!

    I greatly respect and admire you for stepping out! It takes courage and faith and I’m interested to see where the journey will take you. It may be uncomfortable, but we were never called to a life of comfort. Christ never said that following him would be comfortable. Looking forward to hearing your next entry about this journey!

  4. Ben

    I’ve been attempting to gather the courage to do what you are doing for years…may God bless every move you make from here on out. You are a role model to the restless and chained soul.

  5. Tom

    It seems that in my younger days (I’m only 30 now….) I was much more willing to leap out in faith. To an extent, I’ve done the Abraham thing of just going without knowing any details ’cause I sensed the Lord’s leading.

    I’m kind of facing that again now, but there’s so much more at stake. Or so it seems. I have kids now. I have a mortgage. I have a reputation. I have stability. I have a steady income. I have people and things that I’m responsible for. But what’s really at stake here? I just have more to trust God to take care of. And He is more capable than I am…..

    Thanks, Pete. I’ve got some thinking and praying to do now…..

  6. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I want to comment to mark this moment and the fact that I’m grateful for what you’ve shared with us, but I feel at a loss for words after reading this. Maybe that’s the best compliment I could pay.

  7. evie

    Oh no! I’m sad to hear that the boat won’t make the trip, not even in her half-hull-bookshelf-diminished-glory. Even though it feels like God has you by the nostrils, and even if he does (would he do that?), I have a feeling he’s leading you where he wants you for this season. And please hurry it up. The Dark Knight awaits. And no, that’s not a metaphor.

    p.s. “Be like the fox…” My Swedish relatives, when they were visiting a few years back, told me that when I drove I was “like a sneaky fox.” But I don’t think it was because of leaving more tracks than necessary or the wrong direction thing…that’s not possible.

    p.p.s. How on earth did you discover that poem??

  8. Jenny

    The beginning of the poem resonanted so deeply with me. It reminded me of one of my favorite poems, T.S.Eliot’s Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, a cautionary tale of a life “measured out by coffee spoons”. I’m looking forward to your reflections on your new path and God’s calling to you.

  9. Matt Conner

    Pete, blessings on your journey man – I love these words today and appreciate the spirit behind your personal sails…

    As far as Wendell Berry goes, you can find that poem in a couple books of his.

  10. Peter B

    Jenny, it’s funny how I hear someone mention that poem every ten years or so. I always thought he was talking about a nursing home or some such…

    Pete, I wish I knew you better so I could know the story behind all this. I’m not sure how your experience is supposed to affect me, but affect me it will. Also, yell if you end up anywhere near Dallas.

  11. Mad on a Gray Sea

    Sounds a bit like falling in love…
    no way possible to be careful.
    You will absolutely grow wiser.
    It’s like pruning the hedges so new buds can shoot out.

  12. Mike

    I’ve been thinking about true freedom lately. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is living in the fact that I am unconditionally loved by my Father. That He not only loves me but likes me too. It also is living in the fact that it matters not a bit what others think of me. Although I care deeply about what others think (I’m not free) I envy anyone who is not tied down to decisions that have anchored them to a place, an idea, or a commitment. I will ever connect you Pete with Peet in OTEOTDSOD; Your differences will make a difference in the end.
    Be free, live dangerously, and love deeply. But most of all live loved.

    We’re looking for some good paraprofessionals in Georgia middle schools. Come On Down

  13. Jonah G.

    thinking more on my previous comment . . .

    Your narrative not just describes your journey in the everyday life, but it describes the entire journey of your boat. That boat you worked so hard on. By destroying that boat, you allowed yourself to become that boat, but in God’s hands. The story of that boat has not come to an end. It is time for you to be that boat. Allow yourself to be shaped and refined. Remember the pain and love and sweat and blisters and knicks you endured shaping it, and imagine God taking that same care with you. At some point, he’ll let you test the waters . . . maybe he’ll even let you sink a time or two, only to resurrect you to continue to make you better. When you’ve learned what you need from being the boat, you can apply that knowledge again as you resurrect that “phoenix” boat from the ashes, so to speak ( . . . “Phoenix” might even be a good name for it when it’s completed and christened) and begin work anew, with a fresh outlook, new insights, and inspired techniques. Imagine sailing that boat when it’s complete, reflecting on the pride and completion . . . and remembering how God has done the same with you. And don’t forget the whole point of a boat . . . to safely carry individuals through the waves. Wow, Pete . . . What an inspired journey!!!

  14. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    Wow, that was a good’en, Pete. One of your best, I think. I like your courage, man. It’s not easy to hold one’s own next to Wendall Berry, but you just did. Thanks for an awesome piece.

  15. Janna Barber

    It’s not everyday you meet a man who handcrafted a boat, drives a pick-up, owns a motorcycle AND reads poetry. Of course you nearly cried sawing her apart!

    Hoping this change is good. “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” Thanks for letting us travel with you.

  16. Q

    How much of what you sold was given to you? Oft I find my longing for adventure is ambition in disguise. Self achievement. When I think about how little of my life is my own: how much was given me – by my dad, my dad-in-law, and my Father – I am much more bound to honor those gifts.

    In Christ we are grafted into the vine – it has roots. The apostle says we are each a brick in the Church, Christ’s body. But perhaps some are curtains? less stolidly fixed but purposeful none the less?

    What I know is this – we are a peculiar people, alien to this land and culture. It must be providence then that some recklessness be wreck less.

  17. Bret Welstead

    Wow! That picture at the top breaks my heart. And the Wendall Berry poem is inspiring, to say the least. Wherever you land, I hope you have an Internet connection so you can keep posting. A lot of times your posts make me squirm in my chair, or scratch my head, and that’s a good thing. God bless you and keep you, Pete.

  18. aurorajade

    Wow. Not sure I would’ve had the courage to break down the boat. I took a similiar journey in 2004 but less forewarned. I, too, believe it is a spiritual journey. I left with only the clothes on my back. Somehow I endured and am not the person I was nor am I quite finished. Are we ever?? I am not even sure I am at the destination but somehow the location seems irrelevant. Good luck.

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