CHAPTER 3 The Complexities of Youth

My father’s tragic and premature death caused quite a stir in our community. Several well-meaning sportsmen became interested in my talents as a cricketer. During my days at school I had won every prize awarded for outstanding performance. Since I was bereft of my father’s counsel in these matters, these kind-hearted gentlemen sought to fashion a career in professional sports for me, hoping thereby to blunt the edge of my tragic loss.

It was customary in those days for most of the villages and towns in Scotland to field their cricket teams in the summer and soccer teams in the winter. On those long wonderful summer evenings it was a great thrill for me to don the appropriate clothes and play my heart out for my team. On the field I discovered that the concentration and excitement of the game filled every crevice of my heart. There was room for nothing else, nor did anything else really matter. The applause of the crowd and riding the wave of success was an exhilarating experience. Becoming the idol of the sports fans and receiving the admiration of the townspeople seemed, at that time, to be the apex of my ambition.

Sometimes when we were playing at home an arrow of conviction would pierce the inner recesses of my heart. My love for Jesus Christ at this time was at low ebb, and sometimes from my place on the field I could see numbers of the local Christians making their way to the prayer meeting. Usually that same night when the excitement was over, I would lie in the darkness of my little room wrestling with the conflicting thoughts that tormented my immature mind. Slowly and painfully, after weeks and months of conflict I came to the conclusion that the answer to the longings of my inner man could not be found in success on the sports field, nor through the applause of the crowd.

Life up to this point had really been meaningless. I felt like a ship without a rudder or a small twig tossed about on the limitless ocean of life. I realized then that I was facing a crisis in life; there was no sidestepping the issues involved.

Some years previous to this I had accepted Christ as my personal Savior. This decision was very real to me, but somehow the exhilarating joy of the succeeding days was almost nonexistent. My backslidden condition could not in any way be attributed to the Lord’s lack of concern for me. It was entirely my own doing. Worldly things appealed to me and I failed to cultivate the presence and companionship of my blessed Savior. I decided that all this must be changed and that Christ must be Lord of all, or not Lord at all.

Soon my confused brain began to properly assess true values in the light of God’s Word. As wisdom and strength came from the Throne, I relinquished my hold on the transient and embraced the eternal, counting that the recompense of the reward was greater riches than the fame of the world. The question had been, “Christ or cricket? The Savior or sports?” I answered from my heart, “I will give up all for Jesus, and this vain world is naught to me.”

Great peace swept over my troubled heart. Life seemed to take on a new dimension. Now there was a goal, a prize, an objective, the attainment of which I knew would bring satisfaction and joy unspeakable and full of glory. I determined then that the energy and time, which I had expended unstintingly on the sports field, would be channeled into the service of the Lord. The impelling love of Christ burned in my heart with irresistible force and I turned all my youthful zeal and enthusiasm toward seeking men and women, boys and girls, for Christ.

Around this time a surge of interest in missionary work swept over me. I read everything, which I could lay my hands on. The feats of devotion and endurance accomplished by those dear servants of God thrilled my being. In those days of newfound joy I believe the seed was sown in my heart to serve the Lord full time. Opportunities to witness came in an ever-increasing circle; men of God helped me and encouraged me immeasurably.

Several years passed in happy service, then came the bewildering days just before the declaration of war. One day there was a ray of hope that war would be averted, only to be dashed suddenly by the threats of a ruthless dictator. During this period, in my quieter moments, I often contemplated the ravages of total war. Even in the night I would wake, and my imagination would run riot, I could hear the sickening noise of battle, the deadly impact of mechanical and aerial warfare. I would lie almost petrified as I thought of the carnage and waste of life. Sometimes the groans of the wounded and dying haunted me day and night.

To take an aggressive part in such an inferno was unthinkable to me. Not only have I a sensitive nature, but also certain principles were ingrained in me which were inviolable. However, having no desire to shirk my duty I took immediate steps to prepare for the inevitable. For several months I attended lectures in Red Cross first aid and nursing, gaining diplomas in both. The course of my military service became clear to me, as we waited and wondered. I felt more capable of attending to the physical needs of wounded comrades and, while doing so, was determined never to let any opportunity pass of poring into their ears the tender and sweet story of Jesus and His love.