The other night I was watching some TV. Not something I do that often, but I came across a documentary about a team of Uruguayan rugby players that crashed in a plane in the high Andes in 1972. You may have seen their story, it was serialised in the film “Alive!”. I remember watching that film for the first time with Jude and feeling very cold and exposed as you watched a plane rip apart in the disturbing opening sequences.
What struck me about the documentary and the true story was the perspective that each of them gained through their experience. One of the group was sat down with his daughter some 30 yrs later, telling her that last time he was in this place he felt like God was with him, God was his friend. His daughter turned to him and asked why don’t you feel like his friend now. Her father replied, well sometimes we think we can get by on our own without him, we go our own way. We think we don’t need him.
When all was ripped away from this guy, he needed God, he felt close to him. Yet when real life returns we get caught up in it again.
I always find watching some things like that very hard. The reason why is an event in my own past. I don’t want to tell the whole story here, once I was held up in Mozambique and to be honest I was quite convinced I was going to die. For good reason I might add. I remember during and after that experience gaining a perspective that I have not had since. Maybe I could count it as a gift. When I say that all of the material things in this world did not matter, I am not exaggerating. I was going out with Jude then, and I remember the pain of possibly not seeing her ever again. That showed me how much I loved her. I remember thinking about God and feeling an absolutely pure affection for him. Nothing else mattered.
I also remember feeling incredibly small, almost pointless. All of my education, gifts and skills counted for nothing, absolutely nothing, “they were all rubbish” as Paul in the Bible so aptly writes.
What is man that God is mindful of him?
For me, it helps to try and return to that place every now and again, especially if I am starting to think that I am something, or am feeling sucked in by the pressures and ways of everyday life.
I don’t wish an experience like they had, or to a lesser degree I had on anyone. However in those experiences, there is a gift. A gift of perspective on God, our humanity, our frailty and our mortality.
For me that is something very precious.