My wife and I recently returned from a short trip to India. This was our first trip overseas and there are many many things that I could write about our trip but one thing stuck out to me in particular. While in India, we got the opportunity to visit the Shri Mahalakshmi Hindu Temple (http://mahalakshmi-temple.com/about_temple.asp). When we first arrived nothing really stuck out to me, but as you take the pathway to the actual temple things began to stick out to me.
Along the pathway to the temple are vendors selling things such as carnations and coconuts that are to be offered to the deities. When we arrived at the main altar we had to remove our shoes and the men and women split up. As I waited in line to see the altar, the closer I got to the altar the more the men around me began pushing each other to get to the altar sooner. When I got to the altar, I saw the men really start pushing each other and forcibly handing their offerings to the priest standing at the altar. The faces of the men screamed desperation as they hoped that the goddess would listen to them. After they said their prayers, they exited to their right and met the women they came with outside the altar area.
Once I exited the altar area, I noticed that you could walk around behind where the altar was to meet up with the women you came with. As I was waiting there for my wife, I noticed that the wall that the altar was on (on the backside. Remember I am outside the altar area now.) had a ton of rub marks on it. I saw people pushing their rupee coins against the wall while saying prayers. It was explained to me that they attempt to get their rupee to stick and if it sticks that means the goddess is listening to them. I saw a man attempting to get his coin to stick for several minuted. He tried many different spots on the wall and when it wouldn’t stick he kept trying. The coin eventually fell out of his hand and into the donations bucket beneath. His face immediately fell. He touched his forehead, closed his prayer, and walked away. The desperation on his face and the disappointment when his rupee wouldn’t stick struck me. These people are so desperate to get their gods and goddesses to listen to their petitions. As I watched that man trying to get his rupee to stick to the wall I just wanted to shout out to him and tell him I know what his is looking for and tell him about Jesus.
I was reminded of the story in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah and the prophets of Baal have the competition on Mount Carmel. The prophets try so hard to get their gods to listen to them and burn up their sacrifice on the altar. As you probably know, nothing happens to their altar even when they go through the lengths of self-harm. The people at Mahalakshmi were desperate for their gods to listen and nothing was happening. The offerings they brought were being carried off by a guy and dumped in a trash pile.
I am so grateful that I worship a God who I can have a relationship with. I am so thankful that I worship a God who pursued me when I was running from Him. It broke my heart to see the disappointment when the man’s rupee fell without sticking. It broke my heart to see the desperation for the divine.