I guess I have been writing this column in this illustrious newspaper for over 10 years, that’s something in excess of 550 Wit & Wisdoms.
How many times have I repeated myself? And how many times have I incurred the wrath of an astute reader by accidentally using the wrong word, like the occasion when referring to Blaise Pascal’s ‘reasonableness of faith’ argument, I used the words ‘rational decision’ when I should have, and I intended to use the expression ‘reasonable decision’?
And what drives me to do it? What am I trying to communicate? Sometimes I think I know, and sometimes I am not too sure. Indeed there are times when I think I am wasting my time, but it is often at that point I get one of many encouraging emails or letters from a reader.
I was turning these things over in my head last week as I sat in the sanctuary of a Baptist Church in my hometown. The pastor, whose father, also a Baptist pastor whom I have known and respected for many years, was preaching from Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and strength’ when something he said rooted me to the spot. And I concluded, if this was to be my last ever offering to this paper, this is what I would want to contribute. If there ever is a time when I have the chance to sum up my hopes and prayers for my children and grandchildren, this is it!
Picture the Garden of Eden. An idyllic evening when there wasn’t a breath to rustle vegetation nor disturb sleeping animals, and there we find my namesake strolling and nattering away with his Creator. Can you imagine a more restful and fulfilling scene? Actually how that happened perhaps no one can know. Did God take on a body of flesh that Adam could see and touch and hear or was it a deep and intimate spiritual experience? We do know that God seems to have enjoyed the interaction at least as much as his creation, for surely that is why Adam was created in the first place. But what struck me was this, there was no fear, none.
Wind the tape a little farther and we see Adam and Eve, hiding in the bushes, busily crafting clothes to cover themselves. God calls out, ‘Adam! Where are you?’ – and the answer came; ‘I heard you and I was afraid.’
Why did they see the need to cover themselves? Was it because he thought that God would approve of him only if he presented himself well? And why was he afraid? Was it because he believed the lie that God’s love is conditional and he knew he had missed the mark. He had failed to meet a standard that God had not set and he would be angry. But listen to the Apostle John’s ground-breaking statement centuries later, the essence of which I would want to be my last column, a message that sums up my hopes and prayers for my children and grandchildren. He said, ‘If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced (God’s) perfect love.’
Isn’t our world a world full of fear and insecurity? Isn’t then the message that we, God’s children should be speaking out, and more importantly living out, a message that God loves us with a perfect, unconditional love?
So, if you or I are wondering what God requires of us, this is it: receive the Father’s love, and pass it on.