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The Notebook
Good News in Pilani

We had lived in Bangalore for about two years. And then I turned six. My parents decided to send my older brother and me to a boarding-school in Rajasthan about two-and-a-half-thousand kilometers away.

Thirty-five years later I still remember the smells of the uniforms, the notebooks, and the metal trunk- truly the crisp, clean smell of fear. Everything I owned had the number 1308 inscribed, sewn, and painted on them. I see all these details so clearly. I see the friendly Sikh taxi-driver taking us from Delhi to Pilani in his olive-green Ambassador. I think he looked at me with compassion.

And then that wretched night! My brother was dropped off at another school building. It was late in the evening. And my world was about to come to an end.

"Please, please don't do this...I'll never be naughty again!...I'm sorry." But the cries go unheeded. The gate is closed. And through the bars, I see my parents drive away in the taxi, while I'm being held tight by the matron, crying at the top of my lungs. "Come back...Please come back...I'll never be naughty again...I'm sorry...I'm so sorry."

1308. I was now a number. This, of course, is not uncommon. I watched "Taare Zamin Par" with tears, memories flooding me. The school was not a concentration camp, but I hated it. Though I made friends, I didn't make many. Enemies, however, were in abundance. I wasn't particularly bright. I had my share of smacks on the knuckles, ears being pulled, books being held till my muscles were set on fire. I dreamed of running away to Delhi, to Jaipur, anywhere. But alas, Pilani is well-protected on the eastern end of the Thar desert. My mother would often write. I would write back. Those letters were the one happy thing in that place. But the joys slowly melted away. Hope began to disappear.

But then, unasked for, it came. My mother had written. The smiles that always accompanied the receiving of a letter had dimmed. But this one was different. That Inland letter contained a message that would change my life forever. "My darling...," she began. And then, as I read and re-read, I quickly glanced around me in tears. A dream. Yes a dream. Oh, but this is a good dream. I blinked, and read it again. You would have laughed seeing this little boy, with wet eyes, carelessly crying out in joy as he pored over these few lines. It was not a dream. My mother was coming in two-weeks. I needed to have my bags packed and ready. She was pulling us out of school and we were going to join my father in America. We were "going abroad."

In that one moment, everything had changed. There was no room to doubt the authenticity of the letter. The message brought back hope, and with hope, joy. I was absolutely drunk with joy! It was cold water to a little boy dying of thirst!

That is exactly the emotion that came to those first few people who heard and understood who Jesus was and what He had done. This is why they called the Message "Good News." Long before our languages and cultures had diluted the word, "good" meant something wonderful, pure, and undefiled. It was beautiful. The "news" was astonishing: God, the one and only, the one who always is and always has been, had become a human-being. He had become a man and lived among men. For three decades God was with us and we didn't recognize Him. He had entered into the lowest place, had become ordinary, and walked among ordinary people. And then He submitted Himself to an extraordinary suffering and death. But then, He rose again. And in doing so, God opened the door for us to forever leave the utter horror of this place. We, who are self-centered, proud, greedy, lustful enemies of God have now been offered a chance at unbelievable freedom. Astonishing! God loved us and proved it.

By dying the death of a criminal, God set us free from our crimes, declaring us not only innocent, but righteous, and released us from our slavery to sin. All we must do is believe, acknowledge our guilt and sin, and receive God's forgiveness. And then, with Him leading, walk in the freedom and example of His love.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."*

* 2 Corinthians 5.21
Pradeep Rendall  | July 1 2013
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