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Amy Carmichael :: Nor Scrip—26. Barclay's Bank

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And they are new too, perpetually new, in the diversity of their creation, like the small young buds that open in the morning, perpetual surprises.

I have hesitated to tell of one such because it is so small, too small and warm with human life for cold and formal print. And yet it was not too small to comfort us exceedingly.

For those whose money comes in pounds, and who therefore were doubly afflicted when the pound steadily fell in value and prices as steadily rose, the year 1919 has a shape of its own. It was an iron press turned by a screw which had no regard for our feelings. And we, the creatures inside it, wondered what would happen when floor and roof met. Towards the end of the year two of us went to Madras.

We chanced to arrive on a day when a more than usually serious fall in exchange had startled the community. There had been no warning, and in some cases many pounds had been lost by an hour's delay in cashing an English cheque. Even the wisest were perplexed; and the iron press became too tame a simile: life was a pair of forceps, with rapidly closing points, and the place between was not comfortable. Small wonder that in most gatherings together conversation was dominated by the rupee.

What is it makes the spiritual atmosphere of a place or a house? We did not find the atmosphere of Madras stimulating to the kind of faith we, at least, required, and as day succeeded day and no news came of help having reached Dohnavur by mail, we felt the need of a fresh reviving if we were to fight with gladness the battles of Israel, and walk these new ways in the quietness of peace.

One day, a day upon which we had expected good news, letters of sorrow came. There had been that heartbreak of all heartbreaks, spiritual defeat at Dohnavur; a fight for a soul had been lost. So our flesh had no rest. But we were troubled on every side: without were fightings, within were fears. 'Nevertheless,' most blessed word that cleaves the cloud and lets the blue shine through, God that comforteth those that are cast down comforted us by the coming of a friend, the friend of our New Year's fellowship in prayer. She took me in her car to the beach. There, by the slowly darkening sea, for it was evening, we sat on the sand and watched the waves roll up. The glory of an Indian sunset fell and filled the atmosphere, lights were lighted along the shore, sea and sky and shore suffused with colour passed into one another, and a great hush held the world. But the waves rolled up from unimaginable distances and broke at our feet and a voice was in their sound: 'Faint not to be strong in the Lord. For as His majesty is so is His mercy,' and what His majesty is, let the great sea declare. Blessed be the Lord God for friends, for air and water and the beauty of coloured light. What is man that Thou art mindful of him, that Thou with hand so various, renewest him with 'secret refreshings'? What is man? But he is Thine, O Lord, Thou Lover of souls.

Consoled, reinforced in faith, for who could fear by such a sea? we returned to the mission house to meet the kindly questions of Canon Sell of the C.M.S., whose fatherly heart could not let him rest without asking us how things were with us, for he knew that all that came to us came in pounds, and what was the pound worth now?

But the sound of the sea was in our ears, and we did not tell him anything, except that we were sure our needs would be supplied; for we knew to the missionary financier our position would seem exceedingly precarious, though indeed the word would have been much too mild for him if he had seen our gift book at that hour, still more so could he have foreseen its readings a month later when we touched bottom at £35.[But though we told him nothing of this, his kindness was not satisfied, and he arranged for a regular grant to help us with the work. This, however, we felt we must return, for reasons those who have followed us so far will understand.]

The weeks that followed were full of work; for arrears had piled up during our absence, and, though the comfort of that evening by the sea did not forsake me, I cannot say that it was an easy time for us. We had, as it will be remembered, begun a new square of nurseries and were preparing to welcome a new worker. I have told how we regard the coming of gifts week by week, not only as supplies, without which the work could not go on, but as guidance, by which we may search and try our ways and know of very surety that we are not running before we are sent. The Master is not responsible for that which the servant unsent attempts. He is responsible to give him the means to do that which He had directed shall be done. Had we in anything mistaken His wishes, crossed those light guiding lines laid down on either side? These were the questions of the time.

But never was a time better to look back upon. Not one of us would have missed it if we could have chosen. We fed upon the promises, and then we pleaded the prayer that must have expressed the cry of thousands of hearts, ' Remember the word unto Thy servant upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.' Such times make such words very spirit and life.

On the last night of those long weeks it was impossible to sleep. I rose and looked at the mountains in the moonlight, and at the garden on the other side, with its many nurseries lying so peaceful, so unanxious among the glimmering trees.

The little young moon did not put out the stars, but the moonshine was enough to turn the world into a fairyland of beauty, as moonlight always does in the East, where the very colours show, only in a kind of holiness, not earthly, other-earthly for beauty.

'But Lord, the children cannot live upon moonlight'; the words were spoken before I knew, to the all but seen Companion of that quiet hour, and back came the answer, gentle as the fall of moonbeams upon leaves, 'Yes, I know.'

Then came thoughts of the givers at home, whom the war had greatly impoverished, and of those gone before, who though they walk on golden pavements cannot send even a little handful of its dust to us down here; and as these thoughts rose, comforts answered them, and I went back to bed and slept.

And then came the dream which, though it was only a dream, had so lovely a fulfilment that one is tempted to wonder if it was only a dream after all. For this is it, as it was written down when I awoke, lest it should float off as so often such things do, and melt like a cloud in the morning sky.

I seemed to be in a great bank. I thought it was Barclay's Bank. I saw the broad polished counter and all the paraphernalia of a bank at home. And then I looked up and saw running round the wall in a kind of frieze these words:

CASTING ALL YOUR CARE UPON HIM, FOR HE CARETH FOR YOU: YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWETH THAT YOU HAVE NEED OF ALL THESE THINGS.

'How good to know Barclay's Bank is like this,' I said aloud, almost waking myself, and I thought of all the poor troubled people who must go in and look tip and be comforted. And then I began to wonder if it really was an earthly bank; but did they have banks in heaven? And with that I woke, rather unwillingly, for I did not want to leave that very pleasant place.

That morning the mail came in, as before, unexpected; for in war-time its comings were irregular and unannounced. The first letter we opened had this word in it, 'My God shall supply all your need,' and the next had a cheque for £52 4s. 4d. A day or two later, 'He careth for you' came written across the flap of an envelope which contained a cheque for £65. From that time on it was as if a door had been opened and supplies were let through again.

'But you are hung upon nothing!' It was not a reassuring remark. It was made to me some nights previous to the night of the dream. I need not say by whom. There are those who, to his great content, deny his existence. They have not lived in India, or if they have, they have not met him in fair fight.

It was the night of the Hindu fast-day of the month, moonless and still, for the temple worship was over, and the stars set in depths of violet clearness looked down on me like wise kind eyes of eternal friends, who from far seats have seen the end of the Lord. A heat mist rose and covered the face of the world, a vague and dreamy influence that blurred all outlines, even the outlines of the starlit hills. But the stars shone triumphantly. It could not reach the stars.

Sometimes in our forest we see the black and amber spider of the mountains swinging on the end of her silver line, hung as it seems from space. The wind blows, it swings to and fro but never breaks, and looking up we see far overhead a light leafy twig against the blue, a mere pencil perhaps, but with the strength of the tree in it.

Looking up into those blue depths that night, it was almost as if this little place were for the moment swinging loose, hung upon nothing, for hardly could its thread reach to the constant stars. Not but that it had many friends who would rally round it if they knew it was in need; but it was the Lord of all friends with whom we had to do. If we failed to get access to Him and to hold on without appeal to earth, we had completely failed.

Suddenly the word of the tempter was answered. He who hung the earth upon nothing was the God of this little fraction of it. To Him our line was fastened. Tree of Igdrasil, rather, and for ever, Tree of Life, from eternity to eternity the same. And once more ashamed, fear fled. It is safe to be hung upon nothing, safe to do anything, be anywhere, be anything with such a God.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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