Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Soapbox: Digging Up St. Joseph

Brandi Chambless

In January of 2016, from her desk at the “deconstructed house” corporate headquarters, contributing writer Kimberly Dawn Neumann posted a column on Facebook entitled “5 Crazy Ways to Sell Your House That Really Work!” 

There was a violently polarized reaction to Neumann’s supposition that sellers should try a little magic for a guaranteed quick sale by burying a miniature statue of St. Joseph upside down in the back yard, a post that garnered 850 rabid comments and 658 shares of the furious and naive alike.

 Neumann’s magic was referring to the tradition of burying St. Joseph, one that originated in the 1500s when a group of cloistered nuns were making a land purchase. At least two million desperate sellers still summons the foster father of Jesus annually in an effort to understand and control the recalcitrant real estate market. When the property sells, all credit goes to the upside down graven image. When it doesn’t, the most desperate sellers dig him up and bury him again in another location, location, location until the property sells.

This brings to light not only how desperate we are to move real estate, but how desperate we are as a people to connect with a supernatural God we say we believe in. Similarly, we resort to desperation when we talk to St. Anthony in the case of a lost prized possession like a wallet, a wedding ring, or the family pet.

When a lost dog finally comes home after a couple of nights of sowing his unneutered canine oats, all glory goes to the patron saint of the lost and found and we rejoice in how you can depend on God for anything, mystifying the congruency of the two powers.

After pondering the post from the deconstructed corporate entity, I wondered how a reputable business leader in the real estate world could so freely name and claim the superstitious tradition as one of THE ways to sell a house, albeit crazy. 

I remembered an old story about a man who was so confident of the power of his God that he stood in the face of 450 lost prophets who worshiped a false god named Baal. He told them to do whatever they wish, crazy or not, to light an offering with the fire of their god. They danced and chanted like fools as this one man watched and then asked them if their god was perhaps sleeping or on vacation. They danced again, slashing themselves until they were exhausted and bleeding. Nothing. 

After a while, the man of God, doused his offering pile with water three times. He prayed and called down the fire of Heaven and many saw the power and believed in the true God. 

This man was Elijah. Because he walked only in the truth, he saw God not only do what he asked, but also turn hearts back again to God. 

After taking into account how far we have come from the days of Elijah’s stand, I considered how the best parts of something old and out of date are salvaged and reused in the art of deconstructing a home. Like leaving behind old rotting wood, I wondered if some of the crazy traditions we have in life are just one of the traditions that needs to be left behind. If we were going to appeal to the supernatural, couldn’t we go straight to Jesus and, if so, wouldn’t his power be more than enough to get a house sold or bring home a lost puppy? 

Perhaps, those who testify by this old tradition were right. It DID work. They buried St. Joseph. The house finally sold. But perhaps what they didn’t know is that the wrong offer was accepted. The wrong timing of the move was enacted. The wrong power was called upon. The wrong glory was given. 

I am of the opinion, that sometimes the way that seems right, or the figurative angel of light in our lives is only a deceptive trap masquerading as a golden opportunity. For those of us who grew up with these old world traditions, let us consider doing a little deconstruction without total demolition. Let us dismantle the things that are not the One True Source of our supply and do away with any form of calling up the dead. But let us keep what matters in step with the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other God’s before me!” 

Joseph was chosen by God, not for selling houses, but for the specific mission of raising Jesus. Joseph knew the miracle of the Christ child from the beginning and would never have wanted any glory for himself. And in spite of the “magic”, if you really want to sell your house, you don’t have to do crazy things, just do the right things like hiring a professional real estate agent and digging up St. Joseph for good. If at first it doesn’t sell, there is reason why, but fear not, for it is likely a part of God’s master plan.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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