Monday, 25 June 2012

Bible Readings!

I was in church on Sunday and the bible readings reminded me of my romance novel Running after
Maria. The same readings were used by the minister as I used in my novel. It is after James has lost Maria. He has turned to drink, refuses to see his son, has raped his best friends wife, had sex with a fifteen year old and beaten up a girl who refused to have sex with him. His life is a mess. He meets a girl called Henri and goes to her church to meet her one Sunday.
The passage goes like this:

It took a great deal of courage on my part to walk up to the door of the church and shake hands with the elder on duty.  Once inside, I slipped into the back row trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. It was a long time since I had sat in a church waiting for the service to start. The church was a plainly decorated, with rows of wooden pews facing a raised platform with a communion table and three chairs. The pulpit was next to the communion table and to the other side was a row of pews that I took to be for the choir.

Not long after I had taken my seat, a door opened beside the pulpit and a lady entered carrying a large bible. She was followed by a row of men and women and finally a minister. The lady placed the bible on a stand by the communion table, taking great care that it was open at the right place and all the pages were flat.

 She smoothed out a gold book mark to mark the place required. The Minister took his place in the pulpit and the service progressed. As I recall it now, it was very conventional. Hymns, prayers, bible reading, Hymn in succession. It was the readings from the bible that gripped me and I can still remember them today, so many times since have I read those passages.
After the ending of one of the hymns, a man rose from the congregation and walked slowly to the front of the church. He bowed briefly over the bible as though saying a silent prayer, looked briefly around the congregation, adjusted his glasses and began to read. I can still hear that deep rich voice issuing from the rather bent figure straining his eyes to read the words printed in that bible.
" The readings this morning can be found in the Old Testament, Job Chapter 40 verses 7 to 14 and Chapter 42 verses 1 to 6 and in the New Testament, Matthew Chapter 11 verses 25 to 28."
He paused to let those who had a bible find the correct place.
" Gird up thy loins now like a man:
I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me
Wilt thou also disannul my judgment?
Wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be righteous?
Hast thou an arm like God?
Or canst thou thunder in a voice like him?
Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency;
And array thyself with glory and beauty
Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath;
And behold everyone that is proud and bring him low;
And tread down the wicked in their place.
Hide them in the dust together and bind their faces in secret.
Then I will confess unto thee that thy own right hand can save you.”
The man turned a page and then read on his deep voice dropping into the silence of the church.
" Then Job answered the Lord and said
I know that thou canst do everything and
 that no thought can be witholden from thee
Who is he that hideth council without knowledge?
Therefore have I uttered that I understood not;
Things too wonderful for me which I knew not.
Hear I beseech thee, and I will speak
I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me.
I have heard of thee by hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seethe thee.
Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
The man paused again as he turned the pages to find Matthew and then continued,
" At that time Jesus answered and said; I thank thee O Father Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the son and he to whom so ever the Son will reveal him. “
The man's voice now rose to a higher pitch " Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The man shut the bible and walked slowly back to his seat. I did not notice. Even now I can remember how thunderstruck I was by those words. It was as though the man had been directing those words directly at me and nobody else. It was as though whoever had written those words had written them for me even though they were written centuries ago. It was as though some outside agency, at the time I would have called it fate or coincidence or whatever, had drawn me here to this place at this time? Was I meant to be here to hear this message?  I had no grounds on which to test these types of questions.
Deep in thought, I hardly heard the rest of the service. As though in a dream, when the service ended, I left my seat and went out into the sunlight. I do not know whether I shook hands or said anything to the Minister at the door. I completely forgot the reason for coming to church, leaving Henri in her place with the choir ungreeted. What she thought of me at the time I had no idea, surprised as she must have been to see me in church but even more surprised when I left without saying anything to her or waiting for her to finish.
I got into my car and drove out of town without any clear idea of where I was going. So immersed in conflicting thoughts, I drove automatically, hardly noticing the other traffic. Eventually I came to the sea and though I had trouble finding a parking place, I managed to leave the car and walk along the front by the beach. There has always been an attraction for the sea in me that was evident even before I made seagoing my career. I have found either walking up and down the bridge of a ship or beside the sea help me to think. So that day I walked along the beach with the sound of the waves in my ears, the taste of salt in my mouth but my mind desperately seeking the answer to questions I could not really formulate.
Had I stood up like a man and tried to find a path out of the swamp of my bitterness and depression? I asked myself. No, a part of me answered, you have let yourself sink into the swamp, wallowing in your bitterness like a hippo at a watering hole. But, I almost shouted aloud, I have lost the one thing that was most precious to me, am I not entitled to be bitter?  How do you answer my call that it was not my fault? my mind cried out.  Where is the peace you promise and the rest?  Where is this so called lord who asks us to lean on him when times are hard?  Then I thought of the Minister in Finland who had tried to extend the hand of help and kindness. As with my response to him, I thought, where is this benevolent being looking after all our interests?  If there is such prescience, how could He let Maria die like she did just before we were going to get married?  How could I believe His message when Maria has been taken from me even before we had time to grow together in our love?  These thoughts exploded in a shout to the sea birds whirling and squawking above my head.  Yes if there is a Lord, He is unjust and uncaring!
Wait James, a voice inside seemed speak. If you shout that there is no God because you think he is unjust and therefore not like the tales in the Bible, you might be accepting He does exist. If he exists, am I blinded by my pride like Job?  I caught hold of this thought and let it sink into my mind. When Maria died I had ranted and raved against the human race and blamed everything I could think of at the time for what had befallen me that evening in Finland. I had poured out my anger on other people even when they were trying to help me regain my wish to live. I suddenly realised with a clarity that had never been there before that all these friends could have left me to my own self-pity. For some reason they had come back again and again to lend me their support. The words came back to me from the service this morning, " Come unto me all ye who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest." Is this the way that works, God working through people to carry out his promises?
I thought of all the people who had tried to help me, seeing them all with their hands outstretched and their smiling faces, but the image of them all doing Gods work was too much for my present state of mind. Looking back and thinking now of these people, a bunch more hardly made of the right material for God's work, I cannot imagine. The Minister in Finland who in a language foreign to him had tried to comfort me but I had rejected his gesture in a fit of self pity and anger. I can even now see his concerned face as I hobbled from the church, my crutches making rattling noises on the wooden floor. Brian and Sylvie who had visited me in hospital, collected me when I had been discharged and tried to get me to face the future.  And later I had learnt that Sylvie and Brian had kept in touch with Karl in the hope that they would meet me some day to convince me to go and see my son. What had I done?  Told Brian to mind his own business and to tell Sylvie to mind hers. When Brian had found me in Hull and taken me ashore to meet some of my old friends in an effort to hopefully get me to want to come back into his world again, I had repaid his efforts by having sex with my friend Rex's fiancĂ©e. Then just as he and she must have thought they had helped me, I had hurried back to my ship and hidden myself away again. Roy had tried to help and I had abused his daughter under his own roof even though she played a large part in initiating our lovemaking.
All these people in their own way had tried to help. I now realised they had no other motive than their concern for me as one of their friends. I was somebody they cared for and who needed their help and support. Why had they tried so hard when it was obvious I did not want to accept their help? Thus, I wondered as I walked by the sea. 
Running After Maria is available through Amazon for down loading to Kindle or other electronic readers. 
As a Paperback through or