Tuesday 14 March 2017


In the second account of Creation in Genesis chapter 2 we are given an insight into two aspects of our true nature. The first is when God creates man from the soil of the earth we are reminded that we are created from the soil of the earth meaning that we are earthly, in the living of our faith, we are to keep our feet on the ground. Secondly, we are told that our earthiness is infused with the breath of God’s own life and this is the essential part of our nature that sustains us in our life, a reminder of the divine nature that is within us and sets us apart from all the rest of God’s creation.

When Jesus goes into the desert He holds these two aspects of our nature as one and in the desert, He represents each and every one of us in our struggle with temptation, in whatever struggles we go through in life, reminding us to hold as one these two aspects of who we are.

What Satan seeks to do with Jesus in the desert, the idea he seeks to get across to all of us is that we do not have a divine nature or at least to suggest that God’s presence is secondary to our appetites and desires, of lesser importance to the devil himself. More critically, we are tempted to think that the crises and traumas of life are evidence of God’s absence. Everything the devil seeks to do is to deny God.

The desert is the place where we experience absence and emptiness at its most profound level; the desert is the place where we feel abandoned and lost; it is the place where we really struggle and struggle hard with life – not just with temptations but with the sufferings of life, the awful, unbearable sufferings which can bring us to a point of questioning God, questioning God’s existence.

Jesus is there in every desert experience to remind us of the truth that God is with us, that God is at the centre of all life. But He’s not only giving us a reminder – Jesus lives the desert on our behalf, responds to the temptations on our behalf. He does so especially when we cannot do it for ourselves. He does it so that our struggles are filled with hope rather than despair. And when we are gasping for breath in life, it is the breath of God that sustains us, enables us to keep going against the odds.

The movie ‘Lion’ tells the true story of a small boy in India; a boy five years old whose name is Saroo, meaning Lion. His family is very poor. The mother, who seems to be a widow, earns a living carrying stones. Her two sons sometimes help her while the little daughter is too young to work.

One day as she leaves for work she tells Saroo to stay home to mind his sister but, when the older boy Guddu begins to leave in search of work, the young Saroo begs to be brought along. After much resistance Guddu eventually gives in, a decision that was to change their lives radically.

They travel on a train until they arrive in a station at night. Guddu leaves the sleepy Saroo on a bench telling him to wait there while he went off to find work. Guddu never returns and Saroo wakes to find himself alone in the empty station where an empty train waits silently. The little boy cries out for his brother, searching for him everywhere until he falls asleep on the train. When he wakes again the train is speeding non-stop through the country until it arrives in Calcutta 1500 miles away.

Saroo is utterly lost and in danger in the teeming city and he doesn’t even know where he came from or cannot pronounce properly the name of his home town. Neither does he speak the language of Calcutta. At this point it strikes me that none of this would have happened if he had simply done what his mother told him to. And it occurs to me that my own life would have been less complicated, that I wouldn’t have gotten lost in the ways I did, if I had simply obeyed God.

Saroo ends up in a most awful orphanage and from there he is adopted by an Australian couple who have decided not to have any children of their own and instead to rescue children like Saroo in order to give them a better life. And that’s what they give him – a good, happy, loving life.

As a young student, he encounters others from India and it was then that he started to think about his original home in a serious way. A very striking moment happens at a party in the home of some of his Indian friends. He goes into the kitchen where he sees a plate of jelabies (Indian food for special occasions) and he has a flashback to his childhood when, at a market, he looks longingly at jelabies. His brother tells him that one day he will be able to afford to buy some. Now in this kitchen he picks up a jelabie for the first time, tastes it and says aloud, “I am lost!”

This awareness of being lost sets him on a journey of searching through the internet for his original home.

There are two important loves at work in the life of this lost boy. There is the love that rescued him from an appalling life in Calcutta and the heartbroken love of his birth mother who searched for him constantly over all the years.

These loves represent the love that is alive in the heart of God whose heart breaks, continues to search for us when we are lost; God who rescues us when we are lost. Both loves are held as one in God so that whatever our state in life there is a love to meet us there.

If Saroo had obeyed his mother in the beginning, then he would never have been lost; he would have lived at home under her maternal love. The mystery is that his disobedience eventually led him to experience a love he might not have otherwise known, the love of being rescued and the opportunities afforded him by that love.

It reveals to me how God is ever resourceful in the face of our wanderings, our disobedience, our sin and for whatever condition we find ourselves in there is a new love to be experienced in it, a love that flows from the merciful heart of God.

It also suggests to me that the crisis, trauma or hurt we are going through might actually be a sign of God's presence rather than of His absence.

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