Anguish of Soul
The next morning the joy had completely vanished. It no longer seemed certain that the divine verdict would be so favourable simply because I had passed an examination well. Then something occurred which, though very foolish, shook me to my very foundations. A small object hanging in a spider’s web above my bed caught my eye. Was it a piece of wood or a worm? I could not distinguish which. Suddenly a thought crossed my mind and I voiced it immediately. ‘If this is only a small piece of wood it shall be to me a sign that I shall go to heaven, but if it is a living creature, a worm, then I am condemned.’ The words were hardly spoken when the worm squirmed and twisted in the spider’s web. I leapt out of bed in despair. It was now irrevocably sure : ‘I shall go to hell. God has given the sign. It was crystal clear.’
Though I longed to confide in someone, there was no one whom I felt I could freely approach. How could I add to my mother’s cares? My father would certainly have scolded me. Should I tell my sister? Never! My brothers? Impossible! The pastor? No, quite out of the question! There remained nothing for it but to keep the whole thing buried within my own heart.
The coming judgement now filled me with greater terror than ever. I would awake at midnight trembling all over, for we had learned :
‘Rise! Awake! A voice with power
The voice of watchmen on the tower!
They’re calling you, Jerusalem!
This is midnight dark and dreadful.
They call aloud disciples faithful:
‘Where are ye prudent virgins then?
Awake! The bridegroom’s here!
Arise! Your lights prepare!’
Hark! Heralds call
To the wedding all!
‘Arise! Go forth, and meet the Lord.’
Midnight, that is twelve o’clock at night. So I stayed awake consumed with fear until the clock had struck one, and then sank back into an uneasy slumber. Midnight had now past. I had still a little respite. How often I fled, sleep-walking to my parents – thus only increasing my mother’s anguish.
One day, my brothers, hearing great choking sobs coming from my room rushed in to my aid. They, of course could do nothing to relieve the torment of my lost condition. Eventually they bundled me on my horse and insisted that I go off to see the pastor. But even there no ray of light seemed to penetrate into my darkness.
It seemed to me that the bible spoke only of that day. Everything else was veiled and unreal to me. Yet we knew whole chapters and many verses by heart. Our pastor saw to that. He taught us diligently and we loved and revered him greatly. We had committed to memory the penitential Psalms, Isaiah 53, John 14-17, the Sermon on the Mount, and other innumerable words of both the Old and New Testaments. True enough Pastor reminded us repeatedly with patient admonition: ‘You must not learn them only with your mind – you must know them in your heart.’ But how? – how did one do that? I never dared to ask him how I could know in my heart that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.’ I thought I understood quite well the text ‘there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.’ This passage once pierced me like a deadly arrow. Fear was my true nature. So, it followed, God did not love me. So…