04 February 2012

What have I done??

When I was about eight years old, my maternal grandmother gave me a Bible.  She marked for me, in blue chalk (which was what we used in the days before highlighters!), the Lord's Prayer, in Matthew 6, and the 23rd Psalm, telling me to memorise them - which I duly did.

It is a good thing that all Candace had to give me was a New Testament.  When my grandmother gave me a full Bible, I did what, naturally, one does with a book; I began to read it from the beginning.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis are very difficult.  They constitute a prologue to the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which are the burden of the book.  I read, perhaps, no more than those eleven chapters of Genesis before going to my mother - who was as innocent of any Christian knowledge as I - and asked about the patriarchs who had lived for seven or eight hundred years.  Oh, she told me, perhaps they really meant months.  Enoch (Genesis 5:21) , for instance, was 65 years old when he begat Methuselah.  Eight years old can do simple arithmetic.  I knew that a man not yet 6 years old was unlikely to do any begetting.  I read no more of the Bible.

I still had my grandmother's Bible, but my conversion, if that is what it was, that Sunday the 28th of December, 1969, was very much connected with Candace, and I had her gift.  That very morning I began to read at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel.

This is more difficult than Genesis 1-11.  I got to Matthew 5:27-28:
27Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And other hard sayings.  I was, to put it mildly, distinctly alarmed by this - in the language of the time and milieu, I freaked out.

I rang Candace later that morning and, rather babbling, said that I didn't know what exactly had happened, didn't want her to think it was something it wasn't, maybe it wasn't what she thought, perhaps...

Candace seemed not even slightly concerned.  She calmly said not to worry, trust God, it would all work out.

Monday I got in my 'cab and went back to work.  By Tuesday, or, at the latest, Wednesday, I found something out: if you give yourself to God, you will have to work at it if you want to take it back.  God doesn't abandon you - and you won't find it easy to ignore Him.  I remember thinking something along the lines of: "Well, it looks like I am a Christian now, whether I want it or not.  I suppose I had better try to find out something about all this."

Susan, although, I expect, reasonably positive about this development, was both sceptical and annoyed.

Sceptical, because John had been through other enthusiastic trips - well, here was yet another.  How long would this last, and where would it go?

Annoyed, because I was raving about what, after all, she had grown up with.  I talked as though I had personally just invented Christianity - as though I deserved credit for - well, for whatever had happened.  Susan had been a Christian all her life - although her attendance at the Episcopal churches in Honolulu had been a bit sporadic.  Who was this johnny-come-lately to be telling her about being saved?

Nevertheless, she was positive about the matter.

Candace and her mother returned to the mainland.  I persuaded Susan to move in with me to Young Street.  Did I begin to wonder, even, about the propriety of this living arrangement?  I may have done, I think.  The beginnings of some slight notions of there being a real moral world may have been dawning at last.  Proof of this is that I recall thinking - or saying to Susan, even - that now we were "married in the sight of God."  You don't justify what you think needs no justification.

When driving my taxi, I listened to the radio.  I heard an ad for something called a "Youth Service" at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Waikiki.  Well, I knew that "going to church" was something that Christians did.  This "Youth Service" sounded great.  They had rock music!  I told Susan that we should attend.

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