‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ (Jeremiah 29, verse 13)
You’ve done this, haven’t you?… breezed down the street in your bubble, musing on life’s pleasant minutiae; caught sight suddenly, unexpectedly, of someone familiar approaching, head bobbing up and down on an incoming tide of faces; broken into spontaneous joy, greeting that ‘special someone’ with an unguarded ‘Lovely to see you!’ at the point of passing; realised (now you can get a good look) at that moment that is one second beyond commitment that you have made a whopping mistake… only to see the stranger-friend respond with equal ignorant gusto: ‘And you too!’ You maintain swift forward momentum, mortification stifled by rising hysterics. You have done this haven’t you? I can’t be the only one…
Mistaken identity. The Bible has many illustrations. Mary of Magdala: fearing the sinister removal of Jesus’ crucified body by the authorities, distressed and blinded by her own tears, assumed the man facing her in the cemetery was only the gardener. Peter: his mind in a whirl, having spoken with the risen Jesus in Jerusalem, waited now in Galilee, as instructed, to meet him again. Would he actually come? What should he, Peter, do while he waited, restless and lost for direction? Well, he fished with his friends. This he understood. It put him in touch with common existence once more. Was this how life would proceed once again after three incredible years on the road? It wasn’t going well, though, and as Peter’s spirit sank at his failure to do the one thing he was good at, so a voice came from the shore. He glanced up to respond. It was only a stranger offering sympathy and advice…
The one Mary and Peter both yearned for was there, before them, and they couldn’t see him. Not until he revealed himself to them. Neither was expectant, you see. They just felt so very, very alone and vulnerable – and this had veiled their sight. Yet he was there… just wanting to be recognised for who he was.
I was saddened to read recently of a successful comedian, brought up in a Christian environment, denouncing faith as fable. ‘Well, you can’t argue with science, can you?’ Can anyone who has studied science seriously, deny the order – a mind at work – that is evident in this globe of ours that balances in space so precisely and constantly? The Bible says that the world was formed by the greatest scientist of all: the creator of ‘Mother Nature’ herself… for when folk talk of ‘her’ they are seeing God at work. Without seeing Him. Yet another case of mistaken identity.
‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’
(Hebrews 8, verse 17)