Monday, April 1, 2013

On Holy Accidents

Happy Accidents, Bob Ross, happy, accidents, painterby Ben Howard

A good portion of my life is filled with accidents. From happy accidents to fun accidents to painful accidents where I stub my toe, my life is full of the accidental. Sometimes I even describe myself as an accidental iconoclast. I didn’t mean to dissect your long-held traditional belief system. Sorry!

I’m not a suave man, but the single suavest (suaviest? Suavful?) thing I’ve ever done was entirely accidental. I went to see a local band perform a few years ago and there was a $5 cover at the door. By accident I gave the guy a $10. He, in his infinite money handling wisdom, assumed I was paying for the girl standing in line behind me. A girl, I should mention, that I did not know in any way.

He stamped my hand and I proceeded on. Then he went to stamp the girls hand, and she stared, confused about why she did not have to pay. Realizing what was going on, I awkwardly turned, winked (yeah, I winked, what of it?) and said, “I got you,” before strolling off into the dimly lit bar.

Now, you might ask, “Did you get her number?” or “Did you dance with her?” or a number of other perfectly reasonable follow-up questions. The answer to all of those is no. I simply reveled in my accidental (and illusory) coolness. I’m not a suave man and my accidental awesomeness was overwhelming in the moment.

Not every accident is such a ridiculous example of my insane interpersonal skillz (z’s are cool, like bowties). There are other accidents too; accidents of beauty and meaning, accidents of time and space that bring us closer to something bigger, something more important, something else. And these accidents can be so small; tiny stories that hang on to us for years.

When I was a freshman in college I would go to this weekly devotional that our school sponsored. It was held in this kind of strange abandoned building on campus, in a room full of floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the city. It was beautiful and there were candles. It was the Platonic ideal for a suburban evangelical worship space.

One night, while everyone was singing and losing themselves in the music, I slipped out the back. I’m not sure why I left, maybe I needed to go to the bathroom, maybe I needed a drink of water, or maybe I just wanted to be alone. I can’t recall.

candle, hands, beauty, peace, quiet, SpiritWhen I walked out of the room, I turned left down a long hallway that lead downstairs and I noticed a figure huddled in an alcove off to the right. As I walked closer I could hear the figure, a girl, crying in the shadows, her face buried in her arms.

I knelt down across from her and asked her what was wrong. She told me. She cried. I hugged her. We prayed. And it was beautiful.

I don’t remember what she was crying about. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember what we prayed. I don’t even know her name, or what her face looks like.

But I know we shared that moment. That moment of fleeting beauty, that accident where heaven and earth collided, where the Spirit, whatever it may be, moved and danced and sang and spun around us and through us and was with us.

So often I fall under the delusion that it’s the grand things, the big things, that are supposed to be awe inspiring, but maybe it’s actually those small moments, those seemingly random accidents of time and space, the one’s where the beauty and the simplicity combine to absolutely shatter your preconceived notions of God, maybe those are the moments that truly inspire awe.

Those moments are holy, fleeting glimpses of eternity in the present; holy visions of beauty, power, pain, joy and everything in between.

My life is full of accidents. Some are happy, some funny. And some, some are holy.


Ben Howard is an accidental iconoclast (see!) and generally curious individual living in Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the editor-in-chief of On Pop Theology and an avid fan of waving at strangers for no reason. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.

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