Thought for the Day - Anne Atkins
They were on honeymoon, treating themselves to the first luxury in their joint lives. They’d had dinner and gone to bed. They were fast asleep. So they had no idea when tragedy tore the ship’s side, and by the time they woke it was too late: their cosy Costa Concordia cabin transformed into a dark dungeon of despair.
Han Ki-Deok and Jeong Hye-Jin screamed for help for hours until they were hoarse. They had a few biscuits and a little water, a lifejacket each - no use for their escape - and a spare which they shared for warmth. No light but a tiny pinprick to tell them night from day. They made another vow. If they were found and saved, they would have a good life together.
Their survival depended on someone else’s search. They couldn’t go looking for help: they could only trust that they were missed. If no one came for them, they faced a long and lonely death. How terrifying it must have been to wait and wonder whether anyone knew about them.
One of the most poignant philosophical questions of the last century is whether we’re alone in this vast universe. Is anyone else aware of our existence?
In the seventies there was a television series called The Long Search, about the world’s major religions: our quest for God. On the internet now you can find: looking for god dot com; looking hyphen for hyphen god; I am looking for god; looking number-four god. He must be feeling quite hunted. Apparently one in four of us is looking for God on the Internet.
And yet many who seem to have found God describe the opposite experience. CS Lewis writes of the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom he so earnestly desired not to meet. Frances Thompson dubbed Him the Hound of Heaven, while William Holman Hunt more gently depicts One who comes knocking at our door.
Where are you? is the first question God asks Adam and Eve after they disobey Him and hide. Throughout the Old Testament God searches and finds: Abraham, Moses, David. Jesus’ many stories depict a God who is seeking us out. The shepherd tracking the lone lamb. The woman sweeping her house for a coin. The heartbroken father who never takes his hopeful eyes from the horizon till his runaway son comes home.
Years ago one of our children went missing. She didn’t know she was lost: she thought she was wandering around, and sleeping out, in familiar places she knew. That’s not how her family or the police judged it: we, and they, considered her very lost indeed.
According to Judeo-Christian scripture, God is looking for us. Often we are unaware, confidently fast asleep in the dark with no idea that we’re in danger, sometimes right up until death stares us in the face.
The honeymoon couple were lost and are now found again; were as dead and are alive. Like our daughter, they were sought and saved, and can celebrate all over again a life to spend together.