In the middle of town there stood a huge, perfectly round, stainless steel pole. It had always been there. It never rusted, leaned, or changed in any way. So, to the people in town there was no sign of life in the steel pole that gleamed so brightly in the sunshine. The older people remembered a time when folks were proud of that towering pipe in the middle of their town. They used to have parties and sing songs about it. It was important.
But somewhere along the way a group of folks began to feel threatened by that pole. It was several times taller than any of them, after all. They began to talk about how dangerous the pole was. The reflection of the sun off of that shiny stainless steel was blamed for a car accident. It’s shadow scared the children. Why, someday that pole might fall over and destroy a house or two. And who knew why it was even there? Those who did not feel the fear would silently listen to the fear group, for there was no reason to defend a silent, perfectly round pole. One thing was sure though, there was no need for the pole. It served no purpose for the people of the town.
There came a decision to pound the pole down lower into the ground. The carpenters in town built a ladder that reached to the top of the pole. They coerced the strongest man in town to climb the ladder at high noon and pound on the top of the pole with the biggest hammer they could find. He pounded until the sun went down. The stainless steel pole did not budge.
It was group of university professors who presented a new idea. They told their students to bring one wheelbarrow load of dirt per day and dump it at the base of the steel pole. The students did. And parents did. And firemen and policemen did. School teachers did. They all began dumping dirt and stones and whatever they could find at the base of the pole. And the plan worked! The pole became smaller and smaller. The shadow became shorter and shorter.
Eventually, the ground was built up around the pole so that children could jump over it easily. They played around it now. And adults would place a drink on the pole while they stood and told stories about how they had solved the biggest problem of their time, the pole problem. There was back patting around the pole and an article in the paper about the beginning of a new, brighter day for the town.
The folks of the town were proud. They were a different people now. They had moved beyond the steel pole that had so identified them at one point in their history. They were free from that menacing stainless steel tower that had created so many problems in the past.
A decision was made to avoid teaching the children about the pole. It would be best for them if they only saw the pole as a piece of playground equipment. And so, the younger generation had no idea how deep the pole really went underground, and they didn’t care.
But, some people would look down from time to time at the base of that short, stubby pole and imagine the depth of it now invisible under ground. The older folks never mentioned it, or almost never did. But they would steal a glance at the steel base and think about what they had done.
A man stood up in town one day. He began talking about the pole. He told stories about how important that pole used to be. Kids laughed, because it was just a piece of playground equipment to them. Older folks smiled. The educated folks in town were quick to foresee a problem with the stories the man was telling. They passed a law that said there is no pole, and those who say there is a pole are as dangerous as the pole itself was, except that there never was a pole, of course.
Talk show hosts made jokes about ‘that silly old belief in a pole’. Crowds laughed easily at their jokes. TV networks portrayed those who would mention the pole as deluded soles in need of treatment. Viewers tuned in to watch those shows. And they felt better afterward.
Mental illness went down. Test scores in school went up. Families played games together. And radios played music.
How is that things really did get better? It is because there really was no pole. It WAS just a story…a lie. And helping those who talk about a pole to move on was the only responsible, healthy thing to do.
The stainless steel pole in the middle of town never really existed. This 924-word story is one that l made up just this morning.
But there is a 66-book story about a Creator God. Forty different people wrote parts of THAT story over a span of thousands of years. And they all talk about the same, perfect God standing quietly (at least sometimes) at the middle of everything. And everytime I read from that story I find things that bless me and make my life a joy to live. Now, you may think that God is a made-up concept whose time has passed. You may be right. But why not grab a shovel and start digging down deeper just to be sure? It can’t hurt anything. And you just might discover a…