Welcome back — to me! It was great to get away for a couple of weeks, relax, spend time with family and friends and enjoy our beautiful state. But it is also good to be back among friends and colleagues walking through the ups and downs of life together.
As we have opportunity from time to time to break away for vacation, we are often reminded upon return that the world has not “rested”. I was reminded of this vividly with the two mass shootings that happened in our country while we were away. Once again we are confronted with the atrocity that one of God’s image bearers is willing to inflict on another image bearer.
Perhaps not coincidentally both Lisa and I read Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness on our break. For those not familiar it is a novella that is often included in the list of best books ever written. It definitely does not make the list because of its cheery theme or its uplifting title. I suspect it makes the list because of it penetrating honesty about the human condition. In short the book follows Marlowe as he makes his way up the River Congo during the imperial period in which Belgium was colonizing the African country we now know as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of particular interest for Marlowe is a man named Kurtz, who works for “the company” and has penetrated deep into the recesses of the country. As a true renaissance man, Kurtz came to the Congo with wonderful intentions to benefit the natives. However, when Marlowe locates him he is physically sick, but more to the point his soul has been corrupted and he has set himself up as a sort of demigod among the natives inducing them to worship him and in return taking advantage of them and their natural resources (ivory). Marlowe is able to get Kurtz aboard his steamer and begin to make their way back up the river towards civilization. But before they can arrive Kurtz dies. Just before he expires, Marlowe observes him wrestling with himself as he recounts his days. As his musings come to an end and his life ebbs away, with great clarity of realization he exclaims, “The horror. The horror.”
What a picture it is of man without the healing touch of a Beautiful Savior. Conrad has captured so poignantly the trajectory of our lives, no matter how good our intentions, without the life transforming power of the Gospel. It is easy to judge the shooters in our land or the militant members of the social and political “tribes” different than our own (Antifa, BLM, MAGA, MeToo, Alt-Right, Manosphere, SJA, etc…). We isolate ourselves with our favorite voices and newsfeeds, but we must watch out lest, like Kurtz, we find that “the wilderness loves us, embraces us and gets in our veins.” Always our hope is that in the midst of our wilderness YHWH holds us close as our Guide and Friend.
So this Sunday we will be heading back out to the wilderness, in particular Exodus 18, and we will be reminded that YHWH is indeed the hope of nations. We will be reintroduced to Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who “rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. (cf. 18:9)” May YHWH meet each of us and rescue us from our own heart of darkness.