Fingerprints of the Divine
An article published in The Melbourne Age "Faith" Column: 5 August 2007

written by Rev Gary Heard

As an experienced student of forensic science (TV style), I have been forcibly informed that we human beings leave parts of ourselves wherever we go. We cannot pass through a place without leaving behind some mark of our presence. Cyber experts offer similar injunctions: our web surfing, our emailing, and other on-line transactions and activities leave a trace which afford some sort of historical profile. Adding in the use of mobile phones, banking and EFTPOS, not to mention the ubiquitous presence of city and road surveillance cameras, and use of an e-tag, it is no wonder that civil libertarians have us looking over our shoulder wondering about Big Brother and trumpeting our need for and right to anonymity. We are subtly trained to frame these fingerprints traces in a negative way – somehow threatening our true self, leaving it subject to the whim of others.

At funerals I am often taken by the fingerprints which a person has left behind: the memories, ideas, passions and values which have left their mark on others, some for life. As I was listening to the unfolding life story of a friend’s mother this week, I came to understand that these fingerprints and traces are an essential aspect of who we are: people with connections, people who are part of a community – interconnected and interwoven with the lives of others in so many different ways. As I listened to the eulogies, I was reminded of Jesus’ injunction at the commencement of his ministry, “The kingdom of God is breaking in upon you.” I began to ponder whether the mark of God’s kingdom is to be found in the many aspects of our DNA which are left in different places and on different people.

In the busyness of life, I often find myself distancing from people, preferring not to be distracted as I commit myself to the tasks before me. I am tempted to move people on quickly so that I can return to my chosen task, seeking my own space, protecting my own privacy in a way, often unaware that I may be turning myself away from the very kingdom I am seeking.
Then once in a while I remember. I pause to talk with an oft-difficult and demanding man sitting on a bench, to listen to his story, and find myself rekindled with a sense of wonder and refreshed by the touch of his humanity. I occasionally choose to walk down the street in the hope of an encounter with someone in the community, sometimes returning disappointed because there has been no encounter.

Does my often fierce protection of personal space and privacy cut me off from the in-breaking presence of God? Are these tell-tale forensic trails really part of the fingerprint of the Divine?

Rev Gary Heard is pastor of The Eighth Day, a Baptist Community in West Melbourne.

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