The Common Good

Betsy Shirley

Former Editorial Assistant at Sojourners

I took a lot of poetry classes in college and read some pretty good poems, but the only poem I ever loved in a serious, gushing way was T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. I loved it so much that I wanted to hear someone read it out loud, but none of my friends wanted to read a 64 page poem to me and the only audio copy at the library was on cassette tapes, which were quaint, but inconvenient. In the end, I got the tapes anyway and listened to T.S. Eliot read his greatest work on the plastic Fisher-Price tape player I had as a kid, the kind where all the buttons are primary-colored and the size of hotel soaps.

The poem is full of really beautiful parts, but I especially liked the first few lines of the very last stanza where it says, "We shall not cease from exploration; And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time."

A professor told me these lines were probably referring to heaven, and how all we're really trying to do in life is get back to the Garden of Eden, where we started. And to me that seems very wise and probably true, but I think it's also true in a more ordinary way. The best things in life always seem to be coming full-circle, like when you reread The Chronicles of Narnia noticing things you never saw as a kid and love the same stories all over again, but in a deeper way.

That's the best I can do to explain why I wanted to spend a year as an intern with Sojourners: it's not about learning a new story, but about learning to read a well-loved story with new eyes, taking account for all that's happened since I first read it. It's about learning to see the gospel of Jesus through the lens of social justice, noticing things I missed as a kid, ending up a little closer to where I first set out, but somehow changed because of all that's happened in between.

Blog Posts by Betsy Shirley

Posted by Betsy Shirley 3 years 6 weeks ago
photo © 2007 Laura Askelin | more info (via: Wylio)Though I like a rousing round of ave maria's as much as the next person, the past few centuries of church prayer trends have eschewed Latin in...
Posted by Betsy Shirley 3 years 17 weeks ago
Posted by Betsy Shirley 3 years 27 weeks ago
Posted by Betsy Shirley 3 years 28 weeks ago

Articles by Betsy Shirley

The Evangelicals You Don't Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Betsy Shirley talks to author Francisco X. Stork about helping young adults ask the hard questions.

What in heaven's name does "biblical womanhood" mean? Rachel Held Evans embarked on a yearlong journey to find out.

Gamaliel's Ana Garcia-Ashley is the first woman of color to lead a national community organizing network, faith-based or otherwise. And she's pulling no punches.

How to deepen our spirituality, one step at a time.