March 2012

It was clear that my comments were not going down well. Tension filled the place as awkward silence, the odd clipped comment and body language shouted that disagreement definitely had drawn near. Further stress was seeping in because not all were adopting this hostile position. Some people understood and believed my comments were based on experience – experience no other person in the group shared, and so they were willing to take the risk and trust me. But not everyone. Convinced they knew better, bolstered by my inability to produce a valid guarantee they clung to their opinion and challenged my comments.

Almost two years later we were on the brink of the exact same situation. This time however I was not the person triggering off the potential tension. I was part of the crowd needing to respond. My response was trust; others were yet to reveal their positions – but the moment never truly hit because the speaker did something I could not do two years ago, he didn’t stop to debate, he just drove away.

Both moments were very early in the morning, situated a few miles inside the gate of Kruger National Park. Someone demanded that the vehicle stopped because they had spotted the first wild animal of the trip. Way in the distance a lone giraffe was busy doing what wild animals do – not a lot in reality – and we were witnesses to an un-caged, free, incredibly big and elegant animal. Cameras clicked and multiple digital cages caught images of the distant giraffe.

Then came the comment which required a step of faith.

“Let’s move on because we will have much better opportunities further into the park.”

This comment had no guarantees. This wasn’t a zoo; the animals were free to roam over hundreds of miles. We actually might not see another giraffe for the rest of the day. A decision of faith was required.

The folks not willing to believe that more existed immediately felt hurried, cheated, hassled and robbed from this amazing opportunity to photograph a giraffe in the wild at 200m. But experience informed me, and the driver who made the same comment, that Kruger National Park was a remarkable place where you usually had some very up close encounters with wild animals – the risk was worth it. Go deeper and you will encounter much more. In the past we have seen whole families of elephants – even been charged by one (which most would agree is actually too close up!), we’ve seen giraffes walk across the road right behind us, water buffalo block the road before us, lions lazing in the sun and even a leopard resting in a tree right next to the road – many unbelievably close encounters that would be missed if we stayed sat a few miles from the gate photographing a distant giraffe thinking this was the full experience.

As we celebrate Easter this year there are two challenges before us. The first is the challenge to go deeper into the Easter story. It is good to identify the amazing truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus - to be a part of church services remembering and celebrating this incredible story of truth, but the challenge is to go deeper. To go beyond the first stopping point on the outer rim of the story and discover and encounter more personally who God is through Jesus – life in all its fullness. There is so much of God to explore and experience – I cannot guarantee exactly what that will look like, but it will be remarkable and life impacting. Go deeper into God, ask Him, make yourself more available to Him and see what happens.

The second challenge is to tell people that there is more to Easter than they might think. More than church services, cards and chocolatey gifts. Some people will not be willing to risk exchanging what they already know, but others will trust and be open to discover more of God.

Take the Easter challenge, go deep and tell people what you’ve seen.

Happy Easter. Mark Madavan.
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