'Faith' breaks down
Soon I had mastered the languages. The actual study of the Bible now commenced – and so did a number of other subjects like church History, History of Missions and Doctrine.
Almost imperceptibly something in me was destroyed. Very gently and very carefully the bible was presented in a light that issued from Modernism. This method of study soon seemed to us to be the only honest and sincere one. But something within me was shattered to pieces.
One night the distress of my heart reached breaking point. I threw down my books in black despair, raced out of my room and made for the hillside. For hours I wandered along lonely forest trails in the brittle, frosty night air. At last my mind was made up. ‘Tomorrow’ I said to myself with finality, ‘I shall go to the head and ask for my release.’
As I strode back to the college a certain incident from the past rose up clearly before my inner eyes. It had occurred on the day of my discharge from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. Just before leaving I had glanced briefly at the daily motto book (of Herrnhut). The message that met my eyes had been ‘Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.’ A shiver ran through my being. My mind raced back to that far away Confirmation service of my youth. Those words had come to me that day: ‘Sin no more’; - and what had happened the very next day? Once again the accusing finger was pointing unwaveringly at my heart. How had I behaved since returning to the Mission? Had I been honest, loving and meek? My great sin confronted me mercilessly. However, I had decided. I must go back and endure the ‘worse thing.’ What else could I do?
The next day in lectures, we toiled with the letter to the Romans, and Dogma, followed by Church History, History of Missions, Isaiah and Pedagogics. Eventually the bell rang for dinner. ‘Immediately after dinner I shall speak to the head,’ I reminded myself.
It was the custom to read the calendar slip just after dinner. Strangely enough, on this day someone had laid it near my plate. In the act of raising a fork of food I discovered it. The words, in big letters, seemed to leap at me: ‘Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?’ The words hit me like a thunderbolt, and I was unable to continue eating. I have never doubted that God Himself intervened that day. I abandoned the proposed interview, continued with the course and, at length, passed all the prescribed examinations.
The time to say ‘Goodbye’ had come again. The girl cycled with me to the friends I had made. These included a dear woman who had been a second mother to me, and with whom I had spent many happy holidays.
Together we went to the dedication service, the girl and I. We sat right in front together. And after my name hers was mentioned as being my fiancé. She had remained faithful to me throughout. But in spite of her pure life, and her unwavering loyalty to the faith of her childhood, she was unable to tell me of the One Whom my heart sought. That life, shown so simply yet so convincingly to me on the ship, was a life unknown to either of us. Many years were yet to roll by before we found Him Who is the fairest of ten thousand.
College days were now over. Memory lifted the coverlets and I saw again that day of crushing distress nearly half a dozen years before. Saw the ripening of friendships and the discussions which ran on late into the night. Saw, too, the hours spent in relaxation on the playing fields; and I relived the thrill of mastering difficult parts of the course. As I gazed at the sun splashed lawns I realised that I had been granted many hours of brightness as well as of shadow in this place of tranquil beauty. But I was leaving it more hungry than I had come, for my faith in the truth of the Bible had been destroyed and my confidence in man broken.
It was from here that we had set out on many a crisp vacation morning cycle tours through beautiful Germany. During my stay I and a few others had tried in vain to find, in the ‘Singbewegung’ (a renaissance of ancient tunes and songs) that which is true and genuine. Occasionally we had visited the theatre and opera; we had listened to Bach’s ‘Mattauspassion’ and yet had failed to break through to the eternal springs. We were taken up with young people’s work, ‘Singwochen’ and various honest as well as impure ideas for reform. But nothing stilled the craving of the heart. No one told me that all these efforts are useless when the heart is not right with God.