Once upon a time there was a little girl named Malory Masters. That isn't her real name, you understand, and when she was very small, her Mummy used to do nice, kind, self-sacrificing things for her, and her Daddy used to take her out onto the garden path at night and show her "the Man in the Moon." They told her that God, and Jesus, were everywhere, and that They would see her if she was naughty. So, of course, Malory was afraid to be anything else but a very good little girl: for seven years anyway . . . and then her Mummy and Daddy got divorced.
But Malory was a sturdy, self-reliant little girl, and when she was sent off to boarding school, she took it all in her stride. It was a litle difficult on visiting days, because Mummy or Daddy,(always one or the other) used to come and take her on small outings -- a walk hand in hand along the dirt roads near the school -- perhaps an ice-cream and a milk-shake at a local cafe, but when they returned her to boarding school, she found it very difficult to control the sinking feeling in her tummy, and the tears were especially hard to hold back. But when occasionally she gave in and cried, she was met with stern looks from all concerned, so she learned to keep her tears tucked firmly beneath her eyelids, and she learned to fix a smile onto her face because it obviously made Mummy or Daddy very happy. At night, alone, with no-one to see her misery . . . well, it didn't matter, did it?
Until Malory was nine years old, she attended many different boarding schools. She would just get used to being in one, when suddenly she'd have to leave. Somehow the Principals always seemed to be angry when she left. (It had something to do with unpaid fees.) Then, when she was eleven, she had to have her appendix out. That was nice, because the nurses all told her what a good girl she was, and every day a lady would come around and read Bible stories to the children. Malory got to know about Daniel in the lions' den, and Noah and the ark, and the walls of Jericho tumbling down. She always had a vague feeling that there should be more to these stories, because they always seemed to stop in the most interesting places.
Anyway, Malory got to be thirteen, and that was when she learned for the first time that she was a sinner. She learned that, because of her sins (which of course she recognised immediately as all those annoying little habits which she couldn't seem to overcome) she was doomed to die . . . along with all the other sinners, but because Jesus had come, and died instead, she was entitled to have her sins forgiven, and live forever when Jesus came again. Well! That was good news indeed, and Malory gladly accepted salvation full and free, and became a Christian.
Being a Christian, however, did not seem to make life any easier, and all those annying little habits, which she thought would just fall away and disappear, did not fall away after all. In fact, sometimes it seemed that they plagued her more severely than ever before. But as I have said, she was a sturdy soul, and she gritted her teeth and simply tried harder.
When Malory was eighteen she fell in love. It was a beautiful romance, so she thought, but then, she had nothing with which to compare it, had she? In this romance, it seemed that all the aching emptiness of all the years of her life was suddenly negated. Anyway, it all seemed so unimportant now, because here was love: here was meaning: here was warmth and safety, and someone who cared.
The wedding was quick and simple and took place in a Registry Office, because she was afraid that if she blinked, or waited too long, this miracle of happiness would evaporate. There was no honeymoon because there was no money, and Malory settled down to being a wife: a working wife, and it wasn't too long before she became a working mother-to-be. Four babies later Malory was still a working wife. The miracle of happiness had long since dissipated. Her beloved had proved to be less than an adequate providor. Worse still, he was a hopeless, helpless, gambler, and an inveterate adulterer. So, in between going out to work, Malory took care of her Housing Commission house, and her fast growing family. She did a good job too. Everyone said so, and at the end of each week, Malory scrubbed her four little ones and took them to church to learn about Jesus' saving grace, although, with all that work to do, there wasn't much time for the practice of real Christianity in Malory's life. She told herself that some day she'd make up for it.
Time moves on apace, and before long Malory is forty five years old, divorced, and alone again. No matter, Malory is equal to the situation: she's a sturdy soul, remember? At least now there's plenty of time to devote to being a real Christian. Church once a week, and prayer-meeting, naturally. Bible study every day, and of course, prayer: God bless my loved ones . . . colporteurs . . . missionaries in foreign fields. Forgive my sins, for Jesus sake, Amen. If anyone had compared her prayers to a Tibetan prayer-wheel, she'd have been shocked: outraged. Her prayers were composed of all the right words, and she said them all faithfully, over and over again. She was being a real Christian, she told herself: doing all the right things: helping out her neighbours: making contributions to Church and Charity alike, and yet . . . and yet . . . something was definitely missing.
She asked those who should know -- church members, and church leaders, how to have a closer walk with God. Back came the answers, "Just trust Him."
"I see," said Malory. "How do you do that?" But her advisor could not tell her.
"Place your hand in His by faith," said another.
"How can I do that?" asked Malory. But there was no helpful reply.
At last one day, she met a young man whose very demeanour shed happiness and peace all around him. Now, thought Malory, here is a young man with answers. I'll ask him, and she did, meekly and unashamedly. "What can I do to have a closer walk with God?"
"Do? Not a thing!"
Malory was disappointed, and she looked puzzled.
"Dear lady," he said, "you can't do anything. You don't need to. Jesus has already done it. That's why He came. Because He knew that you couldn't do it yourself."
Malory was listening now. He sounded as though he knew what he was talking about. "But surely," said Malory, there must be something I can do to have a better Christian experience."
"There are only two things you can do," said the young man. "You can study the Bible, and pray. Those are the only tangible things that are within your power to do."
"But I already do those," said Malory.
"How long do you pray?"
"Oh, I don't know -- about ten minutes I guess."
"How much longer?"
The young man was looking at Malory thoughtfully. "How long do you talk when you're on the phone to a friend?"
"Well, I . . . half an hour, sometimes an hour."
"There you are. If you can talk to a friend for an hour, you should be able to talk to God at least that long."
Malory wasn't sure that it would make any difference, but she decided to give it a go anyway. At least it was something concrete for her to do. So she began in the usual way, and when all of her usual prayer was finished, she stayed on her knees and thought of what else she could say to God. She decided to thank Him for all the good things in her life, and once she had begun she was surprised at how many blessings had been heaped upon her. As her heart rose in gratitude she began to tell God of how she longed for a closer relationship; with Him. Days passed, and she found it becoming easier and easier to spend longer periods in prayer. She asked God to shed His love into her life, and she began by showing loving kindnesses to her friends and neighbours, and the more love she showed to others, the more they seemed to shower upon her, until her heart was full to overflowing with love for people and for God. She began to really look forward to her seasons of communion with her Lord. Now she was talking to Him about absolutely everything, and it was making a real difference in her life. Not that she didn't have her moments of despair and doubt: there were many things she still didn't understand, but she knew that without the possibility of doube there could be no real faith, so she trusted God to supply the answers in His own time.
One thing reallly bothered her though. It was the age-old question of why God permits suffering, and it gnawed at her brain like hungry worms, and the more she tried to ignore it, the more insistent those worms of doubt became. Then, one day she learned about the origin of sin -- about war in Heaven and how Lucifer, an angel of light became Satan, the enemy of God. Now everything fell into place. Now she understood the nature of his sin: the accusation that God was being unjust, and the inevitable drama which must ensue while God allowed Satan to demonstrate his own rebel government. She told herself, it's wrong to blame God for the bad things that happen. The devil is at work here too.
In her prayers Malory told God that she trusted Him, no matter what! As she prayed for His love in her life, her love for Him began to throb and pulse and overflow in her heart, and she knew that she was happy. But there was still one thing lacking. She had been reading her Bible, and was particularly impressed by Romans 8:16, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. This was something that Malory had never experienced. Wistfully she thought, I have never felt the witness of the Holy Spirit, or felt this assurance. That was all it was -- just a thought. She undressed and went to bed, and just before she went to sleep she lifted her heart to God. "I love you Lord," she said, and she knew she really meant it. But suddenly, she was overcome with the most beautiful sense of joy. It filled her and washed over her and seemed to glow in a warm steady fountain that flowed from the core of her being, and it was all she could do to stop from crying out loud and laughing with joy, there in the dark. And from that moment on she knew that she was a child of God. She didn't just believe in Jesus, she knew that He was her Saviour. There was no longer even one tiny shadow of doubt in her mind, for the Spirit had witnessed in her heart, and made His dwelling place in her. "Oh Lord," she breathed, "why did I take so long to find you?"
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels not principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38,39,
And Malory knows that it's true .