Out of the jungle

I’m reading General William Booth’s classic ‘In Darkest England and the Way Out.’ (You can download it free if you follow the link). Well worth reading on its own merit – a book years ahead of its time, very influential in social policy and politics.

Booth starts by reminding his readers of Mr Stanley’s (‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’- actually he probably never said it) exploration through the Congo, the descriptions of which were being read voraciously all across Britain at the time.

Henry Morton Stanley

I just returned from speaking at a funeral and my mind went off at a tangent as it does, I was struck by certain parallels.

Stanley was describing to his readers in Victorian England what they could not perceive. ‘The Lost Continent.’ Darkest Africa. Pygmy tribes and cannibals. How could they imagine ‘forests’ (he uses the word because the word jungle hadn’t yet been coined) larger than France, where it poured rain every day and the sun rarely pierced the canopy?

Then there are the tribes Stanley encountered. They had never seen a white person before. He describes how they steadfastly refused to believe that there was, or could be, anything beyond the ‘forest’ in which they and their ancestors had roamed. How do you convince people that there is more to life than what they have seen so far? That’s the preacher’s task! As I preached at the funeral, I was pointing beyond the grave to the promise of glory. I read from Revelation 21, John the beloved’s attempts to describe his visions of that awesome reality we call heaven.

We’re living in this concrete jungle. Surrounded by what we taste, see, touch and smell. It’s easy to think this life is all there is. But our battle is not against flesh and blood, and our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we await a Saviour. He has promised that he has gone ahead of us, prepared a place for us – a real place where there will be work, rewards, relationship, perfection, glory everlasting and joy unspeakable. This world is not our home. May the Lord help us not get too attached, and as we explore through its darkness, may we point many to the only way out.