And I, contemplating all of this through his grace, saw that his love for our souls was so strong that he chose to suffer willingly, and with great longing for that, and meekly suffered with great satisfaction.Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 20, Long Text.
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies to be a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.Rom 12:1
One of the toughest books I’ve read was written by Dr Helen Roseveare. Dr Helen died last year, and having read her obituary, I just had to read about her work as a medical missionary in Congo in the 1960’s. Her book, Living Sacrifice – willing to be whittled as an arrow is not a lighthearted read! It’s brutal. One of the stories she tells is of a nine year old boy called Paul who attended the school attached to the medical centre. At the time, bands of rebel soldiers were scouring the countryside, picking up any boys over ten years old and forcing them to become soldiers. Any that refused were killed.
In the school they had a signal system. As soon as the village saw any soldiers in the area, the teachers would quickly take all the children and hide them in the nearby forests. Each day a monitor was appointed to stay behind (if this happened) and trash the classroom to make it look as though there was no longer a school meeting, or that soldiers had already visited that village.
One day the unimaginable happened and the soldiers came. The monitor for the day was a twelve year old boy called Paul. He was slightly disabled and was therefore slower than the rest. Nevertheless, he had insisted that he take his turn on the rota. He tried his best to make the classroom as disorderly as possible, but just couldn’t quite manage to escape himself. He was caught by the soldiers and interrogated. During a terrible and sustained beating he kept saying ‘for Him’ under his breath whilst pretending to be a deaf-mute. Throughout the beatings he never uttered a scream.
Days later, when he came around from unconsciousness Dr Helen recounts this conversation:
“Have the soldiers gone, Doctor?” “Yes Paul, they’ve gone.” “Did they find the other schoolboys?” “No Paul, they didn’t.” “Did I save them, Doctor?” “Yes Paul, you did.”…then a pause. “No doctor, it wasn’t really me, was it? It was the Lord Jesus in me”.