As I flicked through the television stations recently I was suddenly mesmerised by a dramatic scene.
A young couple, identified as brother and sister, where tightly gripping each other’s hand and listening intensely to two very serious, official-looking men.
Punctuated with dramatic pauses and accompanied by a crescendo of background music, it became obvious the men were about to deliver some vital news to the couple. I began to wonder – was one of them terminally ill? Were they about to discover whether the bone marrow or kidney for their sibling was compatible? Were they to be united with their parents after a life time of separation?
“The news is not good” one of the men announced disturbingly and the brother and sister’s grip on each other tightened. It was high drama indeed, but the next line was to shock me more than it did the young couple.
“Your ratio of prawns and mangos was inadequate”, the words resounded. I was stunned – I had been watching the final verdict on a cooking show.
What a mixed up world we live in. I can understand a producer’s motivation for capturing an audience’s attention, but I couldn’t help wonder how God must view our insular obsession with cooking, home renovation and talent shows when so many in the world live in poverty.
Being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent He is able to look at the world’s overall condition.
In one corner, for example, He has a growing number of TV programs dealing with gourmet food and in another corner He can count the number of children dropping dead from starvation throughout the duration of those programs.
It made me ponder whether our lack of all knowingness will be an adequate excuse when we inevitably faced God. After all, we could argue, He can probably feel the physical pain of the dying child and the tortuous anguish of the helpless parents. We are incapable of emotionally connecting to the raw reality of such suffering.
But would it be more truthful to admit that many of us would rather live in ignorance of the pain in the world than confront its reality?
A recent incident revealed my own inadequacy in this area. I found myself, late at night, waiting in an Emergency Department with a young homeless lady experiencing internal pain. I sat with her for a while and she began to drift off to sleep.
I had done my Christian duty, so I said a prayer and left for the comfort of my own bed. My As I arrived at home I checked on my sleeping children.
The thought suddenly struck me, “Would I have ever left any of them alone in a hospital waiting room in the middle of the night?” Never. Yet I had done so for one of God’s precious children. What would God’s reaction have been to seeing his daughter lying alone and in pain?
Does that mean I am called to solve every problem in the world, from the loneliness of an individual in Perth to world hunger? No. But I can use my response to these situations as a gauge of how close I am to understanding the fullness of God’s heart. And to decide whether I want to seek a more intimate knowing of this love.
That is the paradox and challenge of our Christian journey, reaching its ultimate expression in the beauty and the torment of Easter – the fullness of God’s love can only be discovered through surrender and sacrifice.
Am I suggesting we should never watch another cooking, home improvement or talent show – or any TV for that matter? Not necessarily. But it does mean we need to burst the bubble of self – absorption that may separate us from the pain of others.
To do this we must firstly make a choice to want to see the world through the eyes of God. We must follow this with heartfelt and passionate prayer, such as the one composed by 19th Century English Cardinal, John Henry Newman – a prayer recited daily by Mother Teresa:
“Dear Lord, Help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, O Lord…”
This is the fulfilment of the Easter experience – where death leads to the fullness of life. So we too can join St Paul in saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive: yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Gal 2:20).