John tells this story –
“I was born in England and our family emigrated to Australia in 1956 when I was just one. The world back then was a much bigger place. Today you can Skype, phone, and even fly to the other side of the world within 24 hours if you want to. But, when I was a child, in a family starting out in a new country, a phone call to the UK cost a small fortune.
For my father to speak to his mother via telephone was a once every two to three-year event. For the most part, letters were exchanged, together with photos, showing our timber framed house, me and my first bike, and pictures of me and my brothers wearing shirts they had received for Christmas from my grandparents.
When I was twenty-three years old, I decided it was time I met my paternal grandparents, so I flew to England in December 1977 to meet them. I made my way to their little house in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham and with a sense of anticipation and some nervousness knocked on the front door. My Gran opened the door, looked at me and smiled in recognition. She quietly said three simple words. “It’s my John.” Those three words were so uncomplicated, yet so welcoming and affirming. I belonged to her and she knew me.
Fast forward thirty years to Mother’s Day, 2008. My mother had suffered from the progression of Alzheimer’s over several years, so the whole family gathered at her low care facility in Redcliffe to celebrate Mother’s Day with her. She lived close to me and I visited her and my father frequently. There we all were — her two sons and our respective families, children and grandchildren. Mum slowly looked around at the assembled gathering, trying hard to process faces. Looking directly at me and then past me without a flicker of recognition, she spoke three simple words. “Where’s my John?” Those three words were profoundly tragic to me. Mother’s Day 2008 was the day I ‘lost’ my mother. She knew she had a son named John, but no longer knew what he looked like.”
Gain and loss, each expressed in three simple words.
As we finish an extraordinary year, I am reminded of the importance of the calling of God on our lives and the joy of being ‘known’ and recognised by God. However, whilst many of our students may leave our school being able to clearly articulate the Gospel message and some may even leave MECS having applied the Gospel message to themselves and be able to claim, in three simple words, “He’s my Lord.” All too often, once our graduates leave school to enter the workforce or engage in further education, the close relationship they once enjoyed with God withers away. When the ridicule of colleagues and fellow tertiary students challenges their beliefs, and the adversities of life take their toll, they end up questioning their faith, and asking of themselves, “Where’s my Lord?”. They know of God, but they no longer recognise him as their Lord. They are still loved by God, but that love is no longer reciprocated.
And what about us, as we finish this challenging and somewhat confusing year? Are we still proclaiming with confidence that “He’s my Lord”, or are we instead quietly questioning ‘Where’s my Lord?’.
I am always deeply moved by John’s story communicated above. Our earthly relationships do change over time, and many are marked by loss. The grief of this reality can sometimes leave a heavy burden. But the hope and confidence I have in the Gospel is that ‘I am always known’! I never have to fear that God will one day murmur, ‘Where’s my Narelle?’ I live in faith each day knowing that God joyfully and lovingly declares, ‘There’s my Narelle!’ It is my earnest prayer that each of our departing students would also know that they are deeply loved and known by God, and always will be.
As you and your family head into the Christmas season, may you and yours know this truth deep in your hearts. May you keep safe, enjoy the break and return to MECS in 2021 with renewed energy and optimism for a great year ahead.