Chapter 27

’For we walk by faith and not by sight’

I receive a thick letter mailed from a town on the southern coast of Norway. The name of the sender is written on the envelope, and I know the name. When I knew the person, she was a little girl living with her Norwegian family in Africa. The family was Christian, very much so.

             Now, as a grown up woman, she must have kept her faith.

            On the envelope she has written, in English: ”For we walk by faith and not by sight” , and a code ”2. Kor.5.7”. This code I understand. It means that the quotation is from Paul’s ”Second Letter to the Corinthians”, chapter five, verse seven.

            The envelope contains several postcards with quotations from the Bible, and a Norwegian edition of a book by an author who is unknown to me, Kenneth E. Hagin. The books original title is ”New Thresholds of Faith.” It is published in our country by a religious society called Livets Ord (Word of Life).

            I find a small postcard with a sparrow as a motive. On this card she has written, in English, a verse from a song by the Oslo Gospel Choir: ”He sees the sparrow, He knows the lamb, and He loves me just the way I am.”

            The girl, now a woman, has also written a sweet letter to me, wishing me all the best and improvement of my health. The letter is written on a big postcard with a mountain motive.

            The biblical text in Norwegian on the postcard is from the ”Book of Psalms” in the Old Testament. I do not need to translate it. I find the words in my English-language Bible:

              I look to the mountains;

            where will my help come from?

             My help will come from the LORD,

            who made heaven and earth.

             I have looked to the mountains, but I have found no help from the Lord.

            My Bible in the English language is called ”Holy Bible – Good News Edition, Today’s English Version”. It was published in 1988 by the Bible Society of South Africa in Cape Town. This edition of the Bible was originally made by the American Bible Society.

            In a note it is said: ”For copyright reasons this book is not for sale in the USA and the UK.” I did not know that anyone had a copyright to the Bible.

            How did I get my copy of the South African edition? I don’t remember. Perhaps I stole it from a hotel room in Africa. I have always thought that theft of  Bibles from hotels is a sin that may easily be forgiven, not by God, since I do not beleive in God, but by hotel owners. I have also stolen Norwegian Bibles from hotel rooms, and I think the hotel owners have mercy on my soul.

            There are some handwritten notes in the book, written with a blue pen, in Norwegian.

             The handwriting is not mine. Perhaps I did not steal the book, but got it as a gift from a Norwegian friend. It is a pity I don’t remember. But in a life full of books it is impossible to remember where all the books that now fill up my bookshelves came from.

             I check ”Kor.5.7”. The text in the South African Bible differs slightly from the quotation on the envelope, and reads:

              For our life is a matter of faith, not of sight.

              I read the following verses of chapter 5, written by Paul to the Corinthians:

We are full of courage and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and be at home with the Lord. More than anything else, however, we would like to please him, whether in our home here or there. For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by him. Each one will receive what he deserves, according to everything he has done, good or bad, in his bodily life.

When I leave my home in the body, I shall not go to any other home.

             When my bodily life is over, there is nothing more. I do not beleive that I shall be judged by Christ.

             I say with Fidel Castro of Cuba: History will judge me.

             But I very much want to do good, not bad, in this bodily life of mine. That’s why I try to listen carefully to people who have opinions about eternal life which I do not share. Listening, I try to sharpen my mind and do better than I have done.

             My time is limited. My reason (that small hindrance!) forbids me to beleieve that I shall go to the home of the Lord. Unlike the apostles I am not full of courage. But I hope I have some courage when the bells toll.

             I read the verses 13, 14 and 15 of the fourth chapter of Paul’s ”Second Letter to the Corinthians”:

             The scripture says, ”I spoke because I beleived.” In the same spirit of faith, we also speak because we beleive. We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with you, into his presence. All this is for your sake; and as God’s grace reaches more and more people, they will offer to the glory of God more prayers of thanksgiving.

I spoke, I did my typing, because I do not beleive. I have no prayers of thanksgiving to offer to the glory of a God that I do not think exists. I am not awaiting a divine grace to reach me. However much I would like to beleive, I cannot beleive.

            I read the rest of chapter four:

For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not to things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts for ever.

 Dear Paul, I cannot agree with you in what you here say to the Corinthians about things seen and unseen. For me it is impossible to fix my attention to things unseen. What cannot be seen for me is not there.

              What can be seen lasts for ever, or for as long as the Universe as we know it lasts.

            I see the Universe. Through my Leica binoculars, which I got as a gift from author colleagues at Oktober and my publisher on my 60 years birthday, I have seen the Andromeda galaxy, like a small, faintly glowing disk in the sky. Once, not very long ago, before 1924, it was thought to be a nebula (”stjernetåke”) in the Milky Way. Now we know that the Andromeda galaxy, our neighbouring galaxy, is two million light years away. And we know that there are billions of galaxies out there. Many of them we can observe.   

            We, the humans, will be able to see them for ever, or for a very, very long time.

            But, Paul, I do hope like yout that even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day.

              I try my best to stop the decaying and keep my spirits up.

             Today is Whit Monday, May 12th. During the night a northerly breeze started to blow.

             The morning was rather cold, but sunny. I know what northerly winds can do to the water temperature in the Oslo Fjord. But I was astonished when I came to the beach and found that the sea temperature was a mere 12 degrees centigrade. A drop of five degrees overnight!

             Should I swim? Would my mechanical heart stop if I did?

            I decided to take the plunge into the bitterly cold water. It was refreshing. I did four more plunges during the afternoon. Healthy, I hope. If I get pneumonia, I have only myself to blame.

            But he who does not dare wins nothing.   

       Chapter 26

Chapter 28