[b]As A Red-Hot Wire In The Ear[/b]
But he went back on his promise.
All this happened when I was from home, held away by a particularly difficult work, so Star did not add these matters to the burdened days; knowing I would be with her in whatever sheh did, she waited till she knew what was to come of it. For in our happy little world of Dohnavur we have never even talked of beiing one. We began by being one. Brown and white, white and brown, all mixed together as the childrens song has it. But it is closer than that; we are oned.
For weeks she heard nothing. Then a piteous little letter came from Mimosa, dictated to her brother whom she had persuaded to write. It told of the husbands consent, then refusal because of the castes resistance, and yet, in the quietness of faith, she was apparently preparing for the hour when the gates would open. Under hopeless circumstances he hopefully believed: it was that. There was not a glimmer of light in her sky. But in order to be ready to start at a moments notice she had sold her brass vessels, an Indian womans most precious necessities. They had been her fathers gift to her, part of her dowry, and she could never buy such again. Hereafter she must use cheap earthen pots. She did not say this, but we knew it.
With the money thus realized she had prevalied upon her worthless brother to escort them, when her God should direct her goings; part of it was to be spent in providing for hsi little girls whom he terribly neglected, part on the journey. She hoped to come soon, she wrote.
Many days passed, and Mimosa did not come. What had happened ? A thousand things might have happened; but of all vain ways of spending time perhaps the vainest is to wonder over might-bes, as one of the saddest is to dwell on might-have-beens.
Afterwards we heard it all.
The caste had continued its coercion. Held as she was, and unable to explain herself in the very least to them, she suffered. In this old land where days speak and the multitude of years teaches wisdom, the talk of the people is strewn with proverbs about the pain of cruel words: they are like red-hot wire thrust into the ear; like blisters of fire on the ear; like nails hammered sharply into the softness of unseasoned wood; piercing as arrows. Words hurt more than blows, to be hurt with words is like being beaten by wind and rain together. Every contact with the world outside her house was now, as never before, embittered for Mimosa. And it had been bitter enough before. In speaking of it she said simply; I lived before the Lord again with my sari in my hand.
Who could have succoured her then but a Saviour who had suffered ? Are there not times in life when nothing less suffices ? By the Gate which is called Beautiful we may find joyful access to the God of all beauty. But not till we reach the city whose every several gate is one pearl, shall we find only joy as we enter in. Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Sooner or later we must all come to the place where we hear a voice that is deep with unfathomable pain, call us to the fellowship of suffering.
But there we find Him. And who but Jesus, crucified, risen Redeemer, could suffice us there ?
I have in my study pictures of Millet, Goethe, Tolstoy, Beethoven, and Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, wrote a Chinese student, not yet a Christian, to his friend in Paris. After seeing a beautiful picture, reading some wonderful poetry, or hearing some exquisite music, my spirit goes out, not to Jesus, but to the pictures of the other famous men. But when my heart is in trouble, these can no longer charm; only my contemplation of Jesus in His agony in the garden seems able to bring me peace.
For hadst Thou passionless
Spent easy days, O Christ, known only joys
Walked on safe sandalled feet
In meadowlands Ah, who that ever ran
Naked across the plain,
Scourged by the vehement, bitter rain,
But turning to Thee desperate, would miss
Something in Thee, yea, vital things ? Tears were Thy meat,
A stear-stab Thy caress,
Thou suffering Son of Man.
| 2007/5/29 20:33||Profile|
[b]Bind On Thy Sandals[/b]
At that time her husband was living in a town some ten miles distant from the caste village of her clan. She could have come to us without his knowledge, but, straighforward as her father, it never occurred to her to do so. Her loyalty to that feeble-spirited man, who mooned away his days and left her to keep the family, had never for one instant wavered. Of such fine stuff are the women of India made, trained through hard generations of a disciplined unselfishness that is surely matchless among the nations of the earth.
Then suddenly, she knew she had to come. She could not explain this strong sense of being compelled; she only knew so it was. I had to come, she said.
And we who listened wondered if the angel who found Peter long ago had shone upon her and wakened her from an almost trance of prayer, though indeed it was no trance, for body and mind were strained to utmost activity. However it was, chains fell from off her. Bind on thy sandals, said that calm angel long ago, so unhurried, though every moment was precious. Calmly she made her arrangements now; and, visibly escorted by the brother who had so often thrust at her invisibly, as we believe, by the blessed mighty angel, she passed through the various wards of her caste-bound little city; and the iron gate that lead out of it opened, as iron gates do where angels are; and she, with her baby in her arms and her three little sons walking beside her while the brother she had bribed attended them, took the road that led to the town where her husband was, not knowing what would befall her there.
They were tired when they reached the town of the great Hindu temple. Go down those streets in the early morning, see the haughty Brahman faces glancing at you superciliously from behind the iron bars that guard the verandahs where they sleep on polished wodden slabs. Rising on their elbows they survey the passers-by with a look that must be experienced to be understood. It is the very essence of distilled superiority. Walk down the amazing corridors of that amazing temple, and you will need to summon all your faith to believe that the day will ever come in India, when judgment shall run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
To this town in her weakness, a thing of shame aas her people saw her, Mimosa went now, past the great temple walls, and she looked up at them. They had looked down on her boy when they rubbed ashes on his forehead. Let even the boldest look at them, and they seem to turn his most tremendous assault to a shower of snowflakes. And as Mimosa walked past them, she felt her faith assailed from all sides by those enormous buildings. I have stood on the step leading into the inner shrine of that temple. I have talked with fierce and sensual men, and to some too of the kind who bring to remembrance the young man whom Jesus, looking upon, loved. But never once have I talked to one whose being was not visibly impressed by the influence of the massive piles about him. Mimosa felt its subtle forces now, and the presence of the man beside her accentuated this sense of impotence. He had tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and no change had passed over his spirit. In the long war between good and evil, who was triumphing ? So far as she could see, the devil, not Christ.
| 2007/6/4 20:44||Profile|
[b]Not In Despair[/b]
Star reached her husbands house in the late evening, and immediately was flung body and soul into a very cauldron of confusions. The place was boiling over with excitement, for the news of her intention had run before her and stirred up the sluggish husband and his neighbours, and the house was filled in a moment.
Stark madness abominable, soul defiling, caste-destroying ! Better throw thy children in the river or a well, or toss them into the jungle. And they all raved together, heaping curses, protestations, denouncements on poor Mimosas head with great clamours of loud voices and a frenzied flinging about of arms and hands, and glaring of angry eyes; and she stood undefended in the midst.
For hours the furore continued. They knew of the secret medicine the Dohnavur people used. It was a white powder. It was given to make people Christians. It would be given to the children just as, long ago, some such medicine had been given to the boys unfortunate mother. Had she not been most peculiar ever since ? The boys would clean forget everything good and destroy their caste by actions not to be tolerated. Kinglet listened to all this with open ears and a horrified soul. Was that what they did at Dohnavur ? Then he for one did not want to go.
But Mimosa stood her ground. Shall I throw my children, for whom I have worked as a coolie, to the river or the well or the desert ? Nay, but I will go to Dohnavur and return.
At last, having shouted itself hoarse, the company dispersed, and too agitated inwardly to touch food, though she held herself still before them all, Mimosa lay down beside her little boys and tried to sleep. She was oppressed, but not in despair. With the dawn she would rise and go.
But with the dawn one who had never slept arose and stirred the husband to fresh opposition. I will never let thee go, he said. The sturdy Mischief spoke his mind in decided tones. He sent a message to Star. Tell her I am only four and have walked for ten miles, and my feet are sore. I will come another time. This gave the father his cue. Certainly the Fortunate Fourth would stay with him. As for their first-born, nothing would persuade him to part with him, and he led him off and hid him away in a private room and turned the key in the lock, lest at the last moment he should change his mind again.
And now all was safe. This would bind the mothers feet, for what mother wold leave her first-born and the Fortunate Fourth ?
And Mimosa, what could she do ?The strange pressure, as if of a hand pressing upon her pushing her forth, had not passed from her; she knew that she must go. But how, without her boys ?
She stood silent as is her wont in all moments of high tension. We who have seen her can see her as she stood speechless, gazing with dark, deep eyes into something not seen of men. What is it that we see when we are not here at all in the body, but out of the body ? The shouting about her sounded faint and far away. She was communing with her Father.
Were these children whom He had given her and for whom strength to toil had been given year after year, were they to be taken fom her one by one and brought up to follow that which she abhorred ? Twice, for a few brief minutes, she had been given to drink from a cup of living water. Were her children to go thirsty all their lives ? She knew there was more to drink than those few drops in the cup, there must be springs and fountains. Oh, the thirst of her years ! Were her children never to drink and be satisfied ?
But how leave two of them to the malice of those who would use the oppurtunity to the full ? What might be shown to them within one week in that wicked heathen town ?
It is not the fashion to speak thus. We whitewash facts now, fearing to offend. But, deep under all, we know, and there are some who do not fear to say it, the blackest pages of our Bible find illustration in every land where the fear of God is not. Sin may be covered with the garlands of jasmine, but it is sin.
This was all open to the mother; but with a valorous faith, faith that could not be refused, Mimosa cast her treasures into the arms of God. She had the assurance that she must go on; but it rent her very heart, and she lifted up her voice and wept.
And as she went along the road, carrying her baby and leading her seven-year-old boy by the hand, she went on weeping, nad her first-born heard her voice and broke from his prison, for this was more than he could bear, and he raced after her. She heard his footsteps and stopped.
Mother, mother, do not go, he cried most earnestly. They will give the drugged medicine powder. For the talk he had heard had soaked into his soul.
She hardly remembers what she said, only she knows she did not try to persuade him to come. She was past talk now, she only went on. And the boy went with her.
Then, raising her hands to heaven in mute gesture of adoration, with one supreme act of faith she committed her jewel child, the little four-year-old from whom she had never been parted, to the special care of her Father and God, and set her face once more towards the journey to distant Dohnavur.
It was a weary walk for them all. They had left hom after a scanty meal on the previous afternoon; the children had been given food on arrival at their fathers house; but Mimosa had touched nothing either then or before starting. A bandy journey would follow, and then another trudge on the hot roads. It was a silent company that toiled, for they were too fatigued to talk; but they never thought of turning back.
Two evening later, in the unannounced fashion of the East, they arrived at Dohnavur.
| 2007/6/5 23:08||Profile|
I was in the far corner of the compound at the time; a scout flew to tell me. And, as I ran across the playground, detaining little hands caught at my sari, and little dots of blue danced and tumbled round me, but I hardly saw them. I saw only a small, slim figure in its orange and crimson raiment and pretty silver bangles against the green shadows of the mango-trees, saw the brave brown eyes trying to smile through tears, saw the little hands held up in a gesture of farewell. Fled were twenty-two years like twenty-two minutes. Mimosa here !
Where is she I asked the panting child who trotted alongside.
On Premie Sitties verandah.
A moment later I was there. Facing the door, as I went through it, stood a man, and in that flash of time two currents set from him to me, joy, sorrow; but the sorrow flooded over the joy and ended it. O Servant of Righteousness (his baptismal name), is it thou ?
Then the woman who was standing with her back to the door turned quickly, a tired, old, old woman. Mimosa ? Where was Mimosa ? The little girl of the bright raiment and the jewels and the tears, where was she ? But in a moment she was in my arms like a long-lost child found at last. Tears ? There were tears, who could have restrained them ? And through my own I saw her, an old, tired woman, years and years older than I felt myself.
Beside her stood three boys, weary but polite, in her arms was a baby extremely impolite. He created a diversion by wailing a vehement protest, and his mother dashed the tears from her eyes with the gesture so well remembered, and comforted her baby, and peace reigned again, and we all made friends.
Two of the boys were her little sons, one, from that half-way halting place, was a nephew, notorious as a scampish young madcap, who had elected to come, to see what it was like, he said.
At first it was as if there was nothing left of that little lost girl but the soft brown eyes, but gradually, as she rested, there appeared slowly, as a face rising slowly through clear water, the dear and familiar in this child of our desires. The character was there, the quick intelligience, the wonderful look of spiritual apprehension that in childhood was impressive in both sisters. But all was masked by age. Star, two years older, looked much younger. Four times we have down with her to the borders of death; doctors have given her up; only our hope held on; she can never be strong, we are told, and she has often suffered; life has not always been kind to her; but, beside this wayworn woman, Star looked as if she had glided down the smooth river of the years in a cushioned barge. But the calm eyes of quiet brown told of victory and peace;: As dying, and, behold, we live.
Oh, what will it be when such as she bathe in the pool of immortality ? Will they rise with youth renewed, the pain they wore so long stripped off like an encumbering wrap, the real essential spirit of the life lived here shining forth like a light through clear chrystal ?
What will it be, when they escape from the cramping ways of time and find themselves in the infinite ? For the entrance of the greater world is wide and sure, and they who see the straitness and the painfulness from which they have been delivered must wonder exceedingly as they are received into those large rooms with joy and immortality.
| 2007/6/7 23:32||Profile|
[b]The End Of A Golden Thread[/b]
We had many talks together, and the talks came to be like looks through open windows into a house full of beautiful things.
I do not think that in the East such looks are often given. A shyness slips like a pane of glass between speaker and listener. Then a little breath breathes on the pane, and a fine mist clouds it. Then a curtain is drawn across, and no more is seen. So even a fugitive glance is something to be thankful for.
Thinking over these long looks that were really times of heart listening to heart, it seemed to me that something new had been given, even a very lovely story too good to keep to ourselves.
One evening, as we sat on a fallen block of stone, looking without speaking at the pink flush in the sky over the mountains, the question rose in my mind, How did Mimosa know what she ought to do and ought not to do in the little matters of life where compromise would have been so easy, and a narrow hardness so hindering and hurting to others ?
The festivals, for example, that are part of Indian life, as the pattern woven in the carpet is part of the carpet, so that you can hardly walk on the carpet without treading on the pattern; and the little customs and courtesies that are like the dye in the colours, what of them ? How walk at all without offence ?
When Kinglet was a baby, my sister-in-law asked me to come with her to the great festival at the temple by the sea, and all my neighbours and relatives went; yes, everyone went, and I went too.
There was much brightness and a gaiety; but at night tom-toms and strange noises and a feel of something I did not like. I did not go ever again.
And the family ceremonies and feasts ? I always went if I could. But in the Ritual of the Corner while the women censed the offerings, swaying the censer so, and her arm swung gently to and fro, then I watied outside. I waited while they marked Sivas sign upon their foreheads, and then I went in and joined with them in love.
And so it was all through. She could not tell me why she had felt some things impossible; it was just that she was not at home in that air, and the sounds were the voices of strangers.
The sun had set by now, the sky was like a great soft rose with a single star shining deep in its heart. I thought of Jenny Lind, of the story told in her Life of how one found her by the sea in the sunset with her Bible open on her knee, and asked her how she came to abandon the stage at the very height of her fame.
When every day it made me think less of this and Jenny Lind touched her Bible and nothing at all of that and she pointed to the quiet sky what else could I do ?
But Mimosa had no Bible. Would it have been strange if she had missed her way ?
She had the end of the golden thread:
I give you the end of a golden thread,
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you straight to Jerusalems gate
Built in the city wall.
Oh, need we ever fear ? The least strand of that thread is enough to lead the one who holds it fast all the way home.
| 2007/6/8 21:41||Profile|
[b]"Farewell, Little Brothers"[/b]
Only a few days of rest, and the mother knew she must return. She could not rest with us while her little Mischief with his wide-open eyes might be seeing unforgettable things and hearing words no love of hers could wash from memory. Her baby had been taken, protesting indignantly, to our little hospital, and Vadivu had tended his hurts, for the hard life his mother was living had told very sorely on him. We wanted to keep him till he was well; but even those few days had changed him from a fretful, wailing, skinny scrap into something approaching a jolly baby boy. Even his mothers anxious eyes would light, till they shone like gentle stars, as she listened to the chuckles of this her unlucky, precious Fifth and saw him nod his bandaged little head when we asked him: Tell us, little Gods gift, tell us, will you come back for the Christmas festival ?
We had dreaded the good-bye. The boys and thir cousin, who so far had taken the law into his own hands and decidedly intended to stay, were with the others in the playroom when the time came for Mimosa to go. She had seen her own alone before; now she just looked in, all her hungry mother-passion in her eyes; but they did not see it. Farewell, little brothers, she said, waving her hand to the whole company, indicating with a delicate, purposeful turn of the phrase that hers were ours and ours were hers, each and all included in that farewell; Peace be with you, my little brothers.
And so she left us, loving and simple and very brave.
| 2007/6/9 21:08||Profile|
[b]Send For Me: I Can Come[/b]
But she is back again.
For on a good day a letter came from her, saying: I beseech you to send for me. My coming is possible. How ? What had happened ? Hardly daring to believe the thing could be, we sent our faithful Pearl, fellow-worker for nearly thirty years.
And she returned with Mimosa and the sturdy four-year-old and ten-months-old baby boy, and a wistful and dear little maiden, the elder brothers neglected little daughter whom Mimosa had befriended. I could not leave her. I could not have left a little puppy dog to be lonely and half starved, she said. But Mimosa looked almost frightened in her wonder and her joy. She looked as if she felt anything might happen any minute to end it. It has taken a whole month to wash that look from her face.
One day her husband came. He did not go near her upon her return, so she felt at last, with a sudden courage, that he did not care for the disgrace of owning a wife whose leanings were now known to the world. And that was why she had felt she might rise up and come. She had tole him now that she would return if he wished it, but not just yet. She must learn, she was learning to read, she could no longer go on without being able to read the Bible. All those years she had felt her way like one blind, groping and stumbling; now her eyes had been opened, she must see clearly, she must know. When I am established I will return.
It was the last thing he desired, but he went away, and now her hope is that he will come back and wish to learn himself. For he could not help being impressed by the astonishing happiness of everything he saw. It was the evening hour when he came into the Boys Compound. Kinglet was playing football with the other biggish boys. Music and another were careering about on an old tricycle, and Mischief was dashing giddily round as a driver of a team of horses with jingling reins. Later on he had them to himself for a talk. Do you not wish to come back with me ? But the boys were silent; they did not want to hurt him, but they did not want to go. Then Music had a happy thought. Why this dilemma ? Be Gods man and come with us, he said.
Music had beautiful earnest eyes, like the eyes his mother had when she stood by the mango-tree and tried not to cry. With these eyes looking into his, his father could answer nothing. Perhaps they will draw him to come.
But he left us that day without food ; he would not stain his caste by touching food, and some are praying for another miracle.
Not till yesterday did I hear the end of Mimosas journey home. The story dropped by accident among other tellings.
She had left us without money. Not a word had she said, and we did not know. Afterwards a fear shot through us lest it might be so, and we sent a servant after her with enough to take her home. But he loitered by the way, and it did not reach her.
The first part of her journey was easy, for she travelled with one of our family; but after the bullock-cart and train were left behind there was a fifteen-mile walk, and, carrying her baby boy and her little bundle of things, Mimosa became suddenly faint.
She sat down by the road, a desolate figure, alone as no Indian woman cares to be alone on the road, for her brother, paid to escort her to us, had gone home a week before.
Father, she said, looking up in the old way, Father, I am tired. I spent all I had in taking the boys to Dohnavur; I cannot hire a cart. But indeed it is necessary that I should reach my home. Kindly give me strength to walk.
For a little while she sat there, saying softly, Father, Father, and the word comforted her, and she got up and walked, though slowly with pauses to rest, the remaining ten miles.
But she was exhausted when she reached home. She lay down on her mat, with her Fifth beside her, and she longed for a drink of water.
Presently, to her relief, a relative, hearing she had returned, came in, and touched by the sight of her fatigue, she drew water, lighted a fire, and put things in train for the evening meal.
Mimosa lay and watched her from her mat. It was getting dark, and we know how depressing twilight and tiredness together can be. Soon the house was dark save for the light of the poor little fire made of a few small bits of brushwood, gathered before she left home and left in readiness. There was no gleam of polished brass vessels, no brightness anywhere. She missed her little Music. The unfortunate Fifth was tired and cross poor little lad, it was not his nature to be cross, but he had had a good deal to put up with and she, his mother, was tireder than he; but deep in her heart she was utterly content.
If only I could be sure of seeing them even once in the year, she had said to Star in a moment of almost weakness of resolve; but she had rallied at once. She knew it would not be easy to come even only once a year; but they would be happy and learning to be good. What did anything else matter ?
Now she lay and thought of them, pictured their every action, following them through thier day with loving, loving eyes and then, with that final act of committal which had brought peace to her so often before, she looked up through the dull air of the dull little house. To You, Father. The word has a gesture of its own; it is the gesture of a little child who has learned to give up something it would have liked to keep.
The Fortunate Fourth was retrieved. That very decided young man had made up his mind to rejoin his mother, which settled matters so far as he was concerned.
Then, as the days wore on and her husband took no notice whatever of her, she said she had begun to wonder if he really had, for the present, at any rate, tired of the disgrace of such a peculiar wife. And at last, like the glorious silver shining of the dawn star in these skies of great stars, a thought rose slowly as in some far, dim horizon of the mind, and it rose and rose and swam upwards till it became familiar, beautiful, a star of hope indeed. She would go to Dohnavur. She would learn to read, that the Book of God might open to her. She would receive the spiritual washing. After that God would show. Yes, she would rise and go. And so I have come, she said as she ended her story.
| 2007/6/11 0:13||Profile|
[b]Love Will Find A Way[/b]
But it is only the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another, and this, the last that may be written now, centres round a certain glorious Sunday evening when, with the western sky aflame, we streamed forth to the side of the Red Lake under the mountains, the lake shown in the Lotus Buds, in the picture called Gods Fire.
There, as we stood in a long curved line on the long curved bank, scores of little children scattered among grown-up people and boys and girls, Mimosa, while her husband stood looking on in bemused quiesence, walked solemnly into the water to receive her baptism.
To some who had lately joined us it was just that ever-joyful thing, a Christian baptism, but to us who saw her standing, as it were, at the end of a long avenue of years, to the invisible angels and to their Lord and hers, how much more oh, how much more it was than pen can write or tongue tell !
And now she is back in her bigoted Hindu world, and she writes that some wonder, some scoff, and some are listening a little. Her husband, whom she has set her heart on winning, feels her a disgrace, but the amazing thing is that he owns as his wife one who has so shamed his caste, which is not one of the more tolerant which allow a woman to remain within the fold even after baptism. Her life cannot be easy. But then, she has not asked for ease; she has asked for the shield of patience that she may overcome.
So we do not fear at all to leave Mimosas story here, with the first happy ending, that promises another happier, most happy for ever. And this first chapter of a book that is still being written goes forth with a great joy and with two earnest intentions to comfort, if it may be, some who, depressed by the perplexities of these days, are almost tempted to think our Lord is not in His world now as He was in olden time, and to win help for those who need it.
Will the first be in any wise fulfilled ? Can one consider this solitary Indian woman protected, comforted, sustained, fed with bread the world knew not of, given to drink of fountains in the desert, without feeling that the love of God has many ways of working, and may be working now unseen through all the clamour and the sadness of a foolish generation ? Is not such a story a witness to the Invisible ?
Are there those for whom we have prayed for long, who seem beyond our reach now ? Love will find a way. Are we discouraged because we do not see our signs, and the solid rocks seem to be sinking under shifting sands ? It is not so. Love is mighty and must prevail. Terrible in judgments, marvellous in loving-kindness, Love will find a way.
Out in these corners of the earth those who are face to face with the old elemental forces of sin know what it is to shiver at times with a sense of the almost omnipotence of the god of this world. Is there not comfort for us in this story ? In and out of the deep, dark places of heathendom yes, and as truly among the garish lights of a Christendom that has lost its first warm love whereever there is the least, the faintest response to Love, there love will follow and find, for nothing in heaven or earth or under the earth is impossible to Love.
And will not my second intention find fulfillment somewhere ? Will not prayer that can be as a shield in battle, as dew in heat, as a cool wind on a breathless day, as the light of the moon and stars at night, be round about any anywhere who, enchanted by a glimpse of the loveliness of Christ, are following Him to-day dear unknown fellow-lovers ? For God has other Mimosas
| 2007/6/11 21:03||Profile|