One evening, not long after these events, I was sitting meditating alone at the fire. The prayer meeting was over and the folk had dispersed. The weather had turned cold and a chill breeze was blowing. The full moon rode high in the sky and flooded everything with its silver rays. Through the window I could see the avenue. The tops of the trees moved gently in the moonlight. It was a lovely clear night, yet full of secrets and forebodings.
I threw some logs on the fire and listened silently. I cannot remember now whether I had, by chance, opened the Bible at the Song of Solomon, or whether I had earlier been reading from this unutterably beautiful portion of God’s Word.
Suddenly my heart became fully awake. My eyes had lighted on these verses, ‘I will rise now, and go about the city, in the street, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I aid, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth.’
It is not easy to explain how awareness suddenly crystallises into conviction. But that moment I knew with certainty that the Spirit had spoken to me. In my mind I put it into words:
‘Soon we’ll have to move on from here. But where’ll we go? What, O Lord, is Thy purpose for us?’ And still God withheld the answer.
Some days later I was struck by another piece of Scripture. Till then I had never noticed it:
‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.’
Instantly I knew that here again was a message from God for me personally.
‘Could it be His will,’ I wondered, ‘that we leave the security of parish and salary and, like our dear friend the evangelist, trust God for our daily bread? Could God be calling us to live by faith in Him alone for our every need?’ However, we lacked assurance. The answer still tarried.
A similar thing happened a few days later and I knew then for certain that we should have to resign from the mission. The thought appalled me and I strove with God in anguish of heart. My wife was at the time in hospital. I was alone. A faceless dread gripped me. Even the fear of condemnation had not been so terrible.
‘Where should we go with our six children? Who would understand us? Would we not appear to be unfaithful? What will people say?’
On my desk lay a Bible, a heavy, leather bound book. In my distress I absently took it up and without thinking, flipped it open. The words before me spoke straight to my heart. Deeply moved I read them again:
‘Fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.’ Wonderful peace flooded my heart. Rising I called the children.
‘Come, we’ll visit Mama in hospital.’ Together we went out, I and the little ones, although the evening was casting long, dark shadows upon the earth.
I shall not attempt to describe the weeks that followed. We knew now that a break had to be made. We had never anticipated a situation so thorny. But in the midst of all the upheaval we were filled with unshakable rest and peace which passed all understanding. Repeatedly we told the Lord of our willingness to obey Him – if only He would lead us in the way of His will.
We wanted to leave in unity and in careful conformity with the rules laid down by the mission for a missionary leaving the Society. Accordingly I had several talks with the director of the Mission. Finally I asked for details concerning the correct procedure in resigning.
The outcome was that I severed the ties which had been formed nearly twenty five years previously. As we saw it, we were going into ‘independent evangelism;’ this I explained to the director as I shook hands with him for the last time. Then the door of his room closed behind me.
An unspeakable joy filled my heart on the long homeward journey. The parsonage in which we felt so much at home was till home – although it would be so for only a few more weeks.
When I arrived back, my wife ran to meet me, her enquiring eyes searching my face. But she saw at once that all was well and shared my joy. Truly, amidst all the uncertainty of this life there is fullness of joy in the way of the Lord. But where were we to go?