Inner Circle


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Dear Inner Circle,

When I was a social worker in South Australia, many of the people I worked with lived on isolated fruit blocks or dry farms. One night at about 9pm I drove to a property that was miles away from main roads or street lights. A local school teacher was concerned for a 8-year-old boy whose art work had recurring and disturbing themes. I had made contact with the parents and established that although they loved their boy, they were both alcoholics and not always attentive to the little boy’s needs. I decided to call late at night partly to see what conditions were like at that time and partly because in those days that it was uncommon to be working at that hour. As I wound my way up a long dirt driveway, I passed the main house of the property owner and kept driving to the “pickers’ quarters” (a small hut where fruit pickers would live sometimes for a season).

My headlights flashed past a sight that I knew to be unusual but I couldn’t compute the image at all. I drove on about 50 meters but had to stop in the total darkness. Something felt wrong. I reversed slowly back to the spot. I turned the car slightly and my lights on high beam revealed a little boy tied to a stake. He had a number of toys spread in a semi circle around him but he was bound hand and foot.

The parents told me that the boy had played with some toys when he’d been instructed to do his homework. The father decided to teach him a lesson by tying him up with his toys out of reach but both parents had fallen asleep and forgotten about the boy.

It’s an image that will never leave me. Not only does this this image not fade with time but now that I have an 8-year-old granddaughter, it’s an image that haunts me all the more. I had no children at the time but today I have granddaughter the same age and the thought that anyone could be so cruel to her is too much for me to bare.

I was in my early twenties when this took place and I was a green and as naive as they come. I had done well in my studies and thought I knew everything but as I sought to unleash my genius on the world, I soon learned that I knew nothing. This moment was the first moment that I ever remember feeling like I was a father. I couldn’t see a father anywhere so I must be the father. There were seconds wasted as I looked at this little boy before I got out of the car to free him. They were some of the longest seconds of my life. How could such a moment happen? A father that could do this to a little boy was no father. The real father in this instance must be me. I seemed to be the only one whose heart was broken while the man up in the house was asleep. I had no wisdom and no capacity to make those parents behave like parents; all I had was my broken heart and inexpressible, dumb grief. In this paralysing shock, this was my boy and I was the father.

That is my Easter message this year. It’s a shocking message. The sight of the dead and dying son and the grieving father is surely a contradiction of anything we ever meant when we used the word, “God”. What kind of God could be revealed here? It’s an insight into a father breaking his heart. If you can’t see it, you’re welcome to look at this father’s grieving heart and you might get a whiff of the truth. The religious among us might say, “Ah but Jesus cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.’” Oh silly religious person! The psalms were not numbered in Jesus’ day so the only way he had of telling the crowd to read Psalm 22 was by quoting the first phrase, which begins, “My God My God., why have you forsaken me.” The punch line of the psalm says, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” If God is present in the pain of this poor man or the little boy in South Australia, there must be no hole so deep that he is not already at the bottom. Wow, a God who is present most powerfully in the suffering of the innocent. This is a love to aspire to and a destiny worthy of my life.

Thanks for being part of our inner circle,

Rev Graham Long

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

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Previous Inner Circles


26 March: Thankful for little things

19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory


18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?

2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

3 July: The joy of not knowing

26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?

12 June: Longing for riches

5 June: When you least expect it

22 May: Finding home

15 May: Flying

8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues

1 May: Skuse the French

24 April: Lifting the curtain

17 April: Collective love

10 April: Cardiac arrest

3 April: Awe struck

27 March: You're invited to something special

20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss

13 March: It's all happening at the wayside

6 March: Love makes all the difference

27 February: What goes around

20 February: The joy of being empty handed

13 February: Loving the growth spurts

6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside

23 January: Some criminals have class

16 January: Wonderful surprises

9 January: Ready, set


19 December: Thanks for an awesome year

12 December: Mission and wishin'

5 December: The ups and downs and all is well

28 November: Kissed by the community

21 November: Our cup runneth over

14 November: A revelation from wayside

7 November: When excrement happens

31 October: I am therefore I think

24 October: We are surrounded by heroes

17 October: When you least suspect

26 September: A wayside wobbly

19 September: Knowing a gift

12 September: Advancing at the retreat

5 September: A little dose of good

29 August: Fighting with a feather

22 August: The boom is just beginning

15 August: True riches

8 August: Small is beautiful

1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views

25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside

18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage

27 June: Holy ground

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given



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