There was a crooked man and he went a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all liv’d together in a little crooked house.
This silly little rhyme is one that many, if not most have heard over the years, though there is lacking consensus of what is being addressed. That is often part of the problem with antiquated nursery rhymes and faerie tales–uncertainty of meaning. Simple children’s tunes may be addressing the Black Plague (Ring around the Rosie), or getting eaten by a wolf, or the three little pigs facing the onslaught of evil power, but years later, at times we are at a loss as to what the metaphor originally represented. In addition to that, we are often not sure of the provenance–who wrote it, when, and where? So, much of the value, entertainment, or the richness of the riddle is lost to time.
In our challenge at hand, interpretations are in no short supply for its bevy of mysteries. One speaks of a house in a neighborhood. One speaks to the person it may be. Another speaks to political strife among countries. But again, we do not know for certain. We don’t know if our character in the rhyme has only crooked choices from which to choose, or if he has a marked proclivity towards crooked, because he is crooked. Even though, if this poem is applied generically to the sum of Creation, I would suggest our little prose gets more correct than we might think.
At Creation, God created everything and announced it as “Good!” Because of sin, everything was distorted… made crooked, and cannot simply be made straight again. All of Creation suffers and groans due to sin entering into the world (Romans 8:22). We certainly live in that crooked world today. So, we are drawn to crooked, and most of our choices are crooked. And though we strive to rationalize our behavior, a lie cannot be made straight. Hatred cannot be made straight. You cannot set straight an adulterous affair, nor can you straighten deception. Corruption cannot be “unbent.” Sin cannot be made straight no matter the level of rationalization. This speaks pretty clearly of our present lot in Creation: people, animals, currency, nations are bent. And we all live together in this compromised bliss.
In short, everything in Creation is broken–affected by sin. That sin affected mankind (the depravity of mankind), nature, and the animal kingdom. It affected the cosmological realm, and certainly the spiritual component. That act of rebellion in the Garden left everything bent and crooked, and seemingly hopeless. So, it is no wonder that crooked is revealed in our government, the media, the news agencies, pharmaceuticals, big business, education, are all crooked. We even see it in the depths of religion. We can only repent, be covered in the righteousness of Christ, trust God, and endure till the end.
As I said, theologically speaking this simple rhyme gets a quite a few things correct as well identifying a broken world, but it falls short of any remedy for the present chaos. In the fullness of God’s plan our little rhyme would only describe the first half of the battle as it rests in a humanistic complacency. So, our initial prose fails in hopelessness; it stalls in secularism; it lies gasping in nihilism. And for years, thousands of years, we were “in sin and error pining.” We wallowed in that then present lot yearning for something unattainable–at least unattainable through any measures other than divine intervention. For thousands of years, we would remain that way lost in darkness.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 communicates– “What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” Even here, we are at want for greater clarity of what this slice of inspired wisdom speaks. It seems clear our Scripture text echoes the despair from our original rhyme; we live in a crooked world and we are not able to remedy the hopelessness. On top of that, all of those things that are not there, “cannot be counted” (I had to review that in my grammar check.) To state another way, “Things that are non-existent cannot be measured”–We cannot fabricate substantive restorative elements out of thin air. The hands of Creation are tied. We needed another verse. Our present dilemma is that broken cannot be fixed… so, it must be made new–restored.
It is to our eternal benefit that God is at work through Christ.
Another bit of prose affirms, “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new”(Revelation 21:5). He will not merely make the crooked straight. What is missing will not be counted. Only the work of the divine can restore, broken and bent to His new and proper order. What cannot be made straight will in God‘s paradigm be destroyed, or replaced, restored, reformed, or renewed to the fashion of Christ. To seek to straighten through human devices is wanting.
Perhaps we could add an additional verse to our age-old rhyme…
To mount a crooked charge, upon a crooked hill,
She tumbles to the bottom, left, oh so crooked still.
Only One can save her, but only if she knew,
The One who sits upon His throne is making all things new!
Our only hope is to rest in the grace of Christ.