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Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Cause for Tragedy and Hope. (Fiction)

Ninety year old David Bull coughed and spluttered slightly as he reclined rather cheerfully in his favourite armchair, after his son Graham had dropped him and his 87 year old wife back home from a short trip out. As he cleared his throat and relaxed, his wife sauntered to the kitchen to prepare for him a cup of tea. None of this modern tea-bag rubbish, but the traditional brew in a china teapot, from which a strainer over the mouth of the cup will keep the beverage relatively free from a sediment of spent tea leaves.

The weather outside was awful - cool for late June, dull, and wet. Not that it mattered to the elderly gentleman. For where it was cold and inhospitable outside, inside his heart was warm, glowing with happiness - and pride. As he reclined, he began to let his memories slip back to that dreadful day as a seven year old boy, frightened and with a deep sense of uncertainty. For that was the day he felt that his parents were abandoning him to the fate of the boarding prep school, the start of the long, eleven-year separation from home for a military-style curriculum of full-time education.

Every morning he and all the other boys were escorted to the school chapel for the worship service, where the Christian religion was presented to them in a cold, formal manner. If that was not enough, mandatory grace was said before meals, with which the food was practically inedible, purposely prepared that way to set them upon the road for military service and leadership, and for the hardships that would come their way throughout adult life. David had watched two or three other boys at first refusing to eat, but of no avail. For the strict Matron made sure they ate, force-feeding them amidst weeping and tears. David knew better than to suffer such humiliation. So he ate without relish three times a day, an ordeal to be endured, but never without the thanksgiving to God delivered before the cutlery were lifted from the table.

Day by day, the youngster dreaded the cane, the instrument for corporal punishment, which back in those days was administered by any member of staff, as well as at the headmaster's office. And such was administered rather liberally, for even the smallest offence. When David discovered that there was a news agency not far from the school gates, during one break he slipped out, and with the paltry sum of pocket money, bought himself a Mars bar, a wonderful moment of taste and enjoyment after an endless sequence of horrid dross passing over his tongue. He didn't get away with it. Midway into his next lesson, the headmaster summoned him into his office, and there received five strokes of the cane across the palm of his left hand, before returning to the classroom with tears running down his face.

Those were the worst years of his young life. How he longed for parental love. The comforting arms of his mother. A mother he can run to and shed tears without a shred of shame and embarrassment. The encouraging father-son relationship. Missed opportunities for father and son to spend time together, for example, on a fishing trip, or even just a walk in the park. And an occasional treat such as a bar of chocolate. But no. Father was too involved with his military-allied job. Mother devoted herself to his younger sister. David began to see himself as a nuisance to his parents, always getting in their way. So he believed back in those days. Therefore their best solution was boarding school. At least that was him out of the way. It was years later did he realise their sacrifice through the cost of such education clearing out their bank accounts.

By the time he arrived at public school, his heart was already hardening against showing of emotion. Big boys don't cry - it's the sign of weakness, and therefore a potential target for relentless bullying. One afternoon, the droning of the history master caused his thoughts to drift. Suddenly, the master cracked his cane right across his own desk, making an ear-splitting sound loud enough to wake up the dead. David jolted upright. With his eyes piercing the student's, he ordered him to repeat the last ten minutes of the lecture. David was unable to. So the master brought him to the front of the classroom and in front of everyone present, administered six hard strokes of the cane across his buttocks. The pain was excruciating, but still made every effort to refrain himself from shedding the slightest tear. He had in the past watched other students receive the same punishment, then turned around to smile, and thanked the cane-wielding master as they returned to their desks. David wasn't quite able to reach that point of emotional stoicism. Instead, he wiped a stray tear which managed to escape his lower eyelid, with discretion, hoping that no one in the classroom had seen what he had just done.

Eton College, a famous public school.

It was at that stage in his lifetime that David saw Englishness and Christianity being synonymous with each other, no longer able to tell them apart. Daily morning assembly under Church of England liturgy and the keeping of religious laws were no different from the strict school rules from which the slightest breach would result in corporal punishment. Faith equalled stoicism to such a degree, that any show of emotion was a sign of weakness, and therefore seen as a betrayal of God's purpose, particularly for the King, Country, and Empire. Up to that point in his teenage years, David accepted the Christian philosophy as it stood, that God is a God of war and conquest, and that strict discipline and stoicism to military excellence met his approval. But on one Sunday, when David was at the school chapel with all the other boys, that something occurred which turned his heart against religion altogether. It was the lesson - the reading of Scripture aloud in public - which caused the teenager to shudder, for it was delivered with such an insincere tone of piety. For the Scripture read was 1 Corinthians 13, from the King James Version, followed by an explanation that the word Charity to mean love, and not merely a benevolent organisation. And who took the lesson? None other than the history master who had not long before had publicly smarted his buttocks.

For the rest of his life, David hated God, and everything else to do with all religion, not just the Christian faith. As a result, he became a committed atheist, which carried him along for the rest of his life. However, on the positive side, the school curriculum was good, and despite the total lack of love in a cold, unwelcome atmosphere, he learnt how to play rugby well during the Autumn and Spring terms, spruced up his swimming skills at the school pool, and excelled in cricket and athletics during the Summer term. The gym also featured a boxing ring, where during some P.E. lessons, he found himself sparring with a partner. But the crown of his long years of boarding school was to leave with five A Levels, which gave him a good standing for a University degree.

But after leaving school, he remembered having to join the Forces before attending University, and he chose the Army, the best way to release his pent-up frustrations, with a promise that he would attend the Officer's Training College based at Sandhurst instead of a civil University. But as this was still the War years, and after a few months of training (not a lot different from school discipline, except that the Sergeant had a louder voice) he was posted to Rhodesia, to keep a possible skirmish under control. It was there, as an indigenous uprising against colonialism was threatening the peace, that he was firing his machine gun pell-mell, without proper aim, through a village. As he was returning to base, he saw a young mother lying dead outside the front door of her home in a pool of blood, her dead newborn's mouth still attached to her breast. He realised that it was his bullets which passed through the baby and through its mother while breastfeeding. He felt an emotional blade piercing his heart, perhaps for the first time since it was deprived of all emotion during his school years. Instead, his upbringing compelled him to quicken his pace, and put such a sight behind him. King, Country, and Colony must come first. But the stab continued as a dull ache for the rest of his life.

Back to the present, as the elderly gentleman relaxed in his armchair and sipping his tea, his memory of that shooting was as clear as it had taken place just yesterday. His felt his pride and happiness drift away at the haunting of such a vision. and he began to feel troubled in spirit, the aching of his heart resurging.

The next day, he awoke to the news that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. That should have brought him joy, after the short trip to the polling station with his wife and son on the previous day. Instead he felt very apprehensive. Seeing that the day's weather was a contrast to that of the previous day - warm, dry with some sunshine - he decided to take a stroll through the high street. And so with his son Graham, who lived just a few blocks away, along with his wife, the three sauntered along the shopping precinct. They approached a coffee shop, and at one of the tables set outside the window, a Mediterranean-looking young mother sat, breastfeeding her infant, his tiny head adorned with a mop of black hair. The dull emotional ache he had always felt suddenly became acute, and he stood as transfixed outside the shop window, close to them. Presently, a group of very disturbing young men approached, three wearing tee shirts bearing racist slogans. The fourth was actually wearing a red tie over a white collared shirt.

The four youths began to sneer at the mother as she cradled the child to further protect him from view. At this, one of the lads yelled, "WE ARE OUT! GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY!" Then the smartly dressed youth threw a missile at the young woman, hitting her on the shoulder before lodging between her chest and the baby. David thinks the missile might have been the core left from an eaten apple.

Graham shouted "OY!" as all four cowardly youths took flight and ran off. Then both mother and son went over to console the young woman, and made sure she wasn't too distressed by the incident. Meanwhile, David's lower lip trembled and a tear rolled down his face. He also knew that love for Queen and Country had nothing to do with the racial abuse. Rather it was out of envy, disguised as patriotism, at the reality that someone had succeeded in fathering the next generation, whoever that person might be. Most likely, to them, some foreign pen-pusher with the sign Vote Remain proudly displayed on his desk.

The family returned home, with the son deciding to remain for lunch. As the senior citizen was weeping over his shocking reminder after so many years, his wife asked him if he would like to hear some words of Scripture. David knew that his wife was converted to faith in Jesus Christ some 25 years into their marriage, along with their son. Quite a contrast to the strong atheism she had when they first met at a ballroom while he was on leave. But throughout their marriage he would not buy it. His public school upbringing on State religion had made sure of that. But the haunting memories of that shooting in Rhodesia has made him think again about the best things in life. And one thing that was missing in his younger years was love. It was almost a miracle that he was able to love his wife as he did. He remembers her as a ravishing beauty that night he first set eyes on her. And to him, age has not faded such beauty, even if the world outside their home may think so.

She took out her Bible, and together they read these verses from the Authorised version:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hath eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hath eternal life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:14-17.

She then flipped forward through some pages and then read out this:

That if you confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For all whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:9-13.

David lowered his head as in deep thought, while his wife and son felt it was right to retreat into the kitchen. While they were gone, he started to pray with sincerity, perhaps for the first time ever in his entire life, knowing within that Jesus Christ has came into the world to die, was buried, and rose physically from the dead three days later, to bring peace and hope. He then called on God to forgive him for everything he has done, and to ask God to dwell within him, then thanked him for his mercy and goodness. He then called his family back into the lounge.

"I have called on God for forgiveness and peace," he announced. "Already I feel at peace with God, with the world, and within myself."

His wife and his son both jumped for joy, then embraced each other in a tight hug. Then they both went over to him and tightly hugged, beaming with happiness and joy.

In the early hours of the morning, while his wife was soundly asleep, David woke up to find himself in the loving arms of the risen Christ in Heaven.


Although the story is fiction, all the incidents, including the shooting, were taken from the past testimonies of others, including from one or two whom I talked, and therefore are all historic.


  1. Dear Frank,
    Many thanks for this moving story. Praise God that He can work on the hearts of the unbelieving, working the events of their life together so that ultimately they are saved. Praise God that until we take our final breath, it is not too late to be saved. (My husband's mother finally accepted Christ shortly before she died at age 90). May we take heart from your story never to give up on the lost, but to keep praying for them and witnessing to them.
    Thanks for the great post and God bless,

  2. Hi Frank,
    I always enjoy fictional stories that speak of genuine experiences. I have to say that as I read this story I was reminded very vividly of two incidents in my life. One was when I was a prison visitor on a 'lifers' wing'. There was a man who was there for killing his best friend with a claw hammer. He denied it but ended up having a long sentence. When we visited him in his cell he started having the same dream every night, it went on for three months. He cried every day because he realized that he had done this terrible thing (under the influence of drugs), and could not forgive himself. We told him that God forgives him. It was the only thing that comforted him and he was drawn to the Lord.
    Another incident was when I was talking to what people would class as an alcoholic in the street. He started to cry, and I asked him what was wrong. He said he had killed someone in one of the wars, I forget which one, maybe the Falkland's. He could not forgive himself and had tried to forget it by drinking, but it did not go from his mind. We told him that God would forgive him. He changed.

    This is how God loves us. We are all human and do many foolish and sad things, but the Lord understands that we are flesh, and repentance is what starts to reveal the true love of God which includes kindness and not keeping a record of wrongs.
    God bless you and Alex Frank.

  3. The world has such a distorted idea of right and wrong. They insist things God says are good are evil and what he says are wrong are okay, or even desireable. Sadly so many religious people have adopted the world's standards, with the result that people accept those standards as being God's. When they see the hypocrisy, they then turn away from God. Thankfully, he still loves them adn offers his forgiveness, as your story illustrates. Thanks.