I got a novel insight into the meaning of life the other day when visiting a friend in prison. I have to admit that he and I sometimes run out of things to talk about as we approach the end of our allotted one hour, but this time it was different.
When the prison guard came to our table and indicated that it was time for me to go, we kept talking.
I think it wasn’t until the third time the guard approached us, this time showing some signs of impatience – that my young friend and I stood up and moved towards the door reserved for prisoners, still talking.
Like so many great revelations in life this one was so simple that it is frequently missed; just like Jesus said in one of his prayers of thanksgiving, ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these (truths) from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike’ – that seems to be the way he works.
‘Do you know why God made us?’ gushed my young friend, dying to share his eureka moment with me.
I said, ‘I think so, but you look like you’re determined to tell me.’
And he did: ‘Because he wanted a wee dander and he had nobody to talk to.’
Now you won’t find the expression ‘wee dander’ in the King James version of the Bible, nor is it in the NIV or the NLT or the RSV, but you will find many an example of exactly that, dotted throughout Scripture.
In Genesis, for example, we’re told that every day God made a point of walking and talking with Adam ‘in the cool of the evening.’ And you’ll also read where God, sounding almost lonely, pleads with his people, ‘Come now, and let us reason together...’ – colloquially, ‘Let’s have a yarn.’
And then there’s Enoch who seems to have been quite a remarkable character, who lived until the age of 365 years, but unlike the rest of us he didn’t die, instead, we’re told that ‘... he was not, for God took him.’
I tend to see it like this, although not literally of course. It was said of Enoch that he pleased God, in other words, they got on well together.
One day they went for a walk, and they walked and walked and talked and then walked some more, until Enoch turned around to see how far they had travelled, and God said, ‘Hey Enoch. We’re nearer my house than yours, let’s just walk on home’ – and so they did.
Religion imposes heavy burdens on people. Jesus himself said that. Of the Pharisees, for example, ‘They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.’ While of himself he said, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
Why do we complicate the simple? Why do we make heavy that which is light?
The Old Testament prophet Micah summed it all up in a single sentence: ‘... what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
I’ll settle for that.
Adam Harbinson welcomes comments from readders on his weekly Larne Times column.
Write to him c/o Larne Times, 8 Dunluce Street, BT40 1JG or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org