Index Page   The Lord Took Me

 

Through Biscay to Modernism

In the Bay of Biscay a gale of unforgettable ferocity struck us. We were later told that three ships perished in that storm. One mountainous wave after another smashed right up to the swinging lifeboats. Doors and windows were nailed down, and, on the tables, everything was made secure. Only the more intrepid passengers ventured into the dining saloon at meal times; the rest stayed in their cabins paralysed with fear.

Why did I have no fear? Why did I sleep restfully and relaxed – as far as that was possible in the lurching ship? Why did I watch with satisfaction the raging of the churning waters? Who can fathom the human heart? I experienced far greater fear when disembarking in Hamburg. Here was a surging sea not of water but of people – everywhere…heads, arms and hands in a dense turbulence of humanity. With tense anxiety I scanned the faces.

What if I should fail to find the man who was to meet me? Suddenly, to my immense relief, quite near me I heard a pleasant voice calling my name. There, a few paces away, stood a man wearing a green raincoat and green hat. With his eyes fixed on me he repeated my name. What should I call him? Surely he had been an officer in the last war? Yes, I had always imagined a German soldier to look like that. Erect and disciplined. ‘Pity that he was not wearing a uniform…’ I thought.

‘I am Heinrich’ he said, introducing himself with a friendly smile.

My heart warmed to him. There was certainly nothing ‘put on’ about him. Before the war he had been a teacher. Now he was a farmer. The ancestral farm had called him away from his beloved books and the village children. This man gave the ignorant lad from Africa his first lesson in Higher Criticism. His words alarmed and frightened me. So the Bible was not inspired – was, after all, not the pure Word of God? A terrible storm soon raged within me. Could that mean then, after all, that there is no hell? Should I not find this a most welcome relief? No, impossible. The conflict increased. The storm in the Bay of Biscay was nothing in comparison with this one!