Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A National Obsession

Just occasionally the British find something that unites us. Princess Diana's death was one example. The story of Madeleine McCann's disappearance is another. I wonder why this particular case has got to us so much? Unashamedly I admit to being as obsessed with it as everyone else - I think it is partly to do with being a parent. The surrealism of arresting Mr Murat, essentially on the basis that a journalist found him 'spooky' overwhelms me. Surely having a glass eye and weirding out a Mirror journalist are not grounds for arresting someone?? I love the story of the villagers of Hockering standing up for Mr Murat, having consulted on the matter in the local pub.

The McCann's have bravely stated that they believe Madeleine is alive and being cared for. That is a statement of faith. In my experience, God never fails to honour a statement of faith such as that. I am ashamed to admit that I have feared the worst for this little girl, because if we believe that God loves us and hears our prayers then we cannot doubt that He is taking care of Madeleine wherever she is.

Someone once lectured me on the importance of praising God for everything, and especially for the bad things in life. It was brave of him to lecture me as I was outraged by the suggestion. And I am eternally grateful to that brave friend for setting me straight. What I have learnt is that if you praise God even for the events that really seem to have no upside, then God always brings good out of them. It is as though you were turning those events over to the power of the Kingdom, and then they become for the good. My friend gave me a long theological explanation for why this is so, but I'm afraid such things do not stay in my head. Enough to remember always to praise God even when you do not feel like it, and let Him work.

I think that is in a way what the McCann's are doing, and I admire them for it. But I just wish Madeleine would be returned to them.

I think this outpouring of emotion - stoked though it may be by media pragmatism - may be seen to reflect God's love for every one of us, His concern for every hair on our head. Madeleine's distinctive pupil reminded me of a tear for someone who has slipped through the cracks. Over the past fortnight we have witnessed an outburst of faith. It symbolises the human and ultimately divine desire for everyone to be loved enough. Madeleine has gone unnoticed, and deep within us we cannot bear that. By saying that she matters so much we want to express the truth, which is that everyone matters enormously.

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