For more postings on missions history, click here.Those words open Isobel Kuhn's autobiography, By Searching: My Journey through Doubt into Faith. I'd never read any of her work. OMF has a collection of it on sale. I thought I'd 'try before I buy' and so checked out the first volume from OMF's library on the first floor of our building. (In doing so I could enjoy it in a old hardback first edition that nobody had checked in out since the 1970s, which added to the pleasure!)
To every man there openeth
A way and ways and a way.
And the high soul climbs the high way
And the low soul gropes the low
And in between on the misty flats
The rest drift to and fro.
But to every man there openeth
A high way and a low
And every man decideth the way his soul shall go.
- John Oxenham
Written in the 1950s and describing events of the 1920s, it's not surprising that the story is a little dated. It was not hard to find things I could identify with, even so.
The fundamentalist-modernist debate was raging. Isobel was tossed on those waves. An English professor at her West Coast college (the University of British Columbia) planted the seeds of doubt, asserting that no intelligent person could believe in heaven, hell, and the the Bible 'in this enlightened age.' Isobel had never really questioned her faith. But unwilling to be thought a fool, she turned away from God and sought her meaning and satisfaction in 'worldly pleasures.' Then - as now - these had little power to really satisfy. She found herself in the misty flats - "The in-between place... where men walk in the mist telling each other that no one can see these things clearly... life has no end but amusement and no purpose. It was a popular thing to be on the misty flats, you had plenty of company."
After a broken engagement she thought about suicide; what was worth living for? She only hesitated because of the pain it would bring to her parents. That night, a line from Dante came to mind (there's a good English major!) "In His will is our peace."
"Dante believed in God. What if there was a God, after all? If so, I certainly had not been in His will. Maybe that was why I had no peace? An idea struck me. No one was watching to see if I were a fool or not. Sitting there on my bed's edge, I raised both hands heavenward. 'God, if there be a God,' I whispered, for I was not going to believe in what did not exist just to get a mental opiate, 'If You will prove to me that You are, and if You will give me peace, I will give You my whole life. I'll do anything You ask me to do, go where You send me, obey You all my days.' Then I climbed back into bed and pulled the blankets over me."The rest of the book tells how God did answer her prayers and led her into a life consecrated to him. Consecrated: We don't use that word much, these days. Some of the things it led Isobel to give up are things we would tend to consider harmless, but they were getting in the way of her obeying God and loving others, so I think she did the right thing.