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Parallel Lives

This month marks the tenth anniversary of my dad’s death. Recently I was reminiscing on family and connected things and events I remembered. They were ordinary things; simply pieces which played a part in building up the montage that is the picture of our family life. It’s something that as Christians we ought to think about too. How would our life be summed up? Here in shortened form is how two lives were summed up some years ago in the Obituary pages of a leading UK broadsheet:

“Ron Cunningham, who has died aged 92, was an escapologist… specialising in such feats as eating light bulbs and removing a straight-jacket while hanging upside down with his trousers on fire. The Great Omani, as he was known to his public began in the 1950s… His career reached a high point in 1977 when, to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, he performed a handstand on the cliff edge at Beachy Head with a Union flag between his toes…”

“Countess Andree de Jongh, who died in Brussels aged 90, founded and organised the Comet Escape Line, the route from Belgium through France to Spain used by hundreds of Allied airmen to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe. She was known to all simple as “Dedee”, Andree de Jongh began her resistance work as soon as the Germans advanced into Belgium in May 1940. At the time she was a 24-year-old commercial artist and Belgian Red Cross volunteer, but she gave up her work in order to nurse wounded soldiers; once they were able to walk, she found them safe houses and recruited her friends to help…

Dedee de Jongh made more than 30 double crossings and escorted 116 evaders, including more than 80 aircrew. But on the night of January 15 1943 she was sheltering at Urrungne with three RAF evaders when she was betrayed. The house was stormed and she was captured. When interrogated under torture by the Gestapo, in order to save others she admitted being the leader of Le Reseau Comete. The Gestapo however, refused to believe that such a young and innocent girl could be in charge… The escape line survived and by the time the Allies invaded France in June 1944 more than 500 men had passed down the line to safety. The “helpers” both men and women had paid a great price; many were executed, including Dedee’s own father, Frederic, who faced a firing squad in 1944.

Dedee de Jongh was sent to Mauthausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps. Although she survived, she had become gravely ill and undernourished when freed by the Allies in April 1945… In 1946 she was awarded the George Medal, Britain’s highest award for bravery honouring a civilian. After the war she returned to nursing, spending many years as a sister at a leper colony in the Belgian Congo before moving to Ethiopia where she was a matron.”

Both of those obituaries appeared on the same page of

‘The Weekly Telegraph, Issue 848 Wed Oct 24 – Tue Oct 30 2007.

Here were two lives lived pretty much in parallel over a period of 90 years, yet, and with no disrespect to Ron Cunningham, each life could hardly have been more different.

As I reflect on almost 48 years of my Christian life, I see how at times that it’s possible to live a similar kind of parallel life, the sum of which could hardly be different. On the one hand I have seen how it’s possible to live a life lived concerned with the trivialities, the peripheral and the superficial; acting out the pretence that something worthwhile has occurred, only to find a deafening silence from God after the empty applause of men has faded away.  On the other hand, I see the reality of a different life.

It’s a life where we give up working for the goals of the other life to ‘nurse the wounded souls’, and help them to walk again and, with the help of others, provide a place where they might be prepared for the sometimes hazardous journey ahead. 

This place should be within the community of the people of God, the church.  In that community let’s make every effort to avoid being concerned with the trivialities, the peripheral and the superficial. Rather, let’s be a community in which the life and priorities of the Father take precedence. Life within this community is about listening for the voice of our heavenly Father so that we can follow His direction. Yes, this direction will take us through enemy territory, where there will be the possibility of betrayal, even by those whom we thought we could rely on. The road will be a road well-travelled, where the sacrifice of others will be evident and their sacrifice will be a powerful witness to encourage us to keep going. Spiritual danger will be our constant companion on this road and so we must be vigilant for our own lives and the lives of others. However, as we look back, we will see how God by His “grace has brought us safe thus far” and be strengthened by the knowledge that this same God by that same “grace will lead us home”.

 ‘Like parallel lines, parallel lives can never come together.’[See Ephesians 4:17-5:1].

It’s something worth reflecting on don’t you think?

Blessings,

Pastor Frank.

 




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