It’s a poem seemingly without meaning that children sing through the generations, but it fails to answer the question of how on earth fragile Humpty did ever get to be on top of such a high wall with such tragic result. Or is it a rhyme to instil into our young sub-conscious minds that the best and most stable of men can, in moments of opportunity or difficulty, act in such a way as to place us beyond the restorative powers of all the King’s horses and men?
In these past few months, three dear friends have had their own Humpty moments; from a bedroom trip in India, to a skiing spin in Austria, or a car flip on the M3 in the UK. Each have resulted in arms broken and needing a DIY shop of steel pins to bring back fragile bones to a place of unity.
In Europe we have climbed high on the wall of European integration. This week we witness a Greek referendum, not principally about debt, but on two colliding juggernauts of vision and values. In one lane the fast paced Rolls Royce of banking and business with traditional politics the engine beneath the bonnet. In the oncoming lane, a more grass roots, self-assembly kit car, fast, responsive populist approach heading for a different vision of Europe where the individual has greater voice. Where will it all end? Just how many King’s men will be needed to put the European Union back together again?
In Iraq and Syria we read of war, murder and rape, and the pulling down and destruction of ancient artefacts and museums. Documentaries tell us that in the history of civilisation there has never been such awful obliteration of so many antiquities, with billions of broken pieces. A religion at war with itself, as well as the infidel, provides daily Humpty Dumpty footage of the terrible loss of life and destruction. No wonder local king’s men stand and scratch their long flowing beards and shake their heads in dismay.
This shattered world desperately needs the divine love of God in Christ - the only glue - to work a miracle. Only the church has the answer to this carnage. Unity within diversity appears a beautiful but fragile dream. Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 for his church seems a bit pie in the sky, "That they may be one as we are one," (John 17:21). Not a dream says Paul, but a battle: "…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph 4:3).
Within the worldwide church today we witness similar fragmentation, party spirit and elitism, and many wonder if there is even a desire for unity let alone how much glue will we need?
My heart tells me that Jesus’ prayer is guaranteed as an answer when our hearts and wills say amen to His prayer. Sitting recently amidst a pile of Humpty pieces I felt the Father remind me that the only way up in His kingdom is down. "He who descended is the one who also ascended," (Eph 4:10). It was Jesus who rebuked James and John's desire for prominence with the words, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve," (Mark 10:45). It is this desire to be served that underlies kids playground fights, or bust ups with our neighbour, or foreign powers exploiting the poorer nations of our world.
The great reversal of the kingdom is that we must die for Christ to live. Only when we embrace humility, take a lower position and truly believe, "that whoever would be first among you must be your slave," (Mark 10:45), can we hope to show the way and to heal the broken lives around us. In the Humpty Dumpty world we live in, we can each find God's wisdom and security on the lower step.