Skip to main content

What Christ Means to Me: Chapter 7

What Christ Means to Me by Wilfred T. Grenfell

Download PDF of this page

Listen/Download Audio of this chapter


Chess is the king of games. Its great squares leading across the board to the spot where every pawn may win a crown have always fascinated me. The sinister picture of God and the Devil moving the pawns about without their being consulted almost ruined it for me. But when Alice in her Wonderland wandered across my pathway, and I saw that the pieces moved themselves, the game became again to me a helpful parable. It enabled me to visualize somewhat the interest of Him whom I think of as watching its millions of pieces throughout the ages, as they work out their own destinies in the drama of life.

When first I visited Labrador, there was no lighthouse on its rock-bound coast, so a friend offered both the money to build one and to pay the salary of a keeper. However, the Government warned us that no private person may own a lighthouse, for possibly the man might let its light go out. Every year, with a thousand other vessels, I cruise along our rugged coastline. Each vessel sets out full of high hopes of a successful voyage, a full fare, and afterward a hearty ‘well done’ from the satisfied owner of the craft, when, at the end of the venture, she has once more reached home. Alas! Our coast is strewn with wrecks. I low many times have I myself sorely needed a pilot and guide to advise me what to do! How often have I struck my beloved little ship, because the coast pilot, who was all the guide we had, could not be depended upon!

We have been badly handicapped in our work for children, especially for the unfortunate tuberculous lying under the shadow of the Valley of Death, by the difficulty of letting the sunshine in, and at the same time keeping out the biting winds and raw cold from our polar current. The ordinary glass which we use for our windows oddly enough prevents the vital rays of the sun from passing through, though it is apparently clear and translucent. Our bodies, sorely in need, look out for these rays, but are betrayed, for little of value to human life comes through the windows. Lying on my table is a substance called ‘Vitaglass.’ It shields from danger and gives life-giving light at the same time.

Faith came to me with the vision of Christ still alive in this world today. I owe it to Him. He meant to me a determination. God helping me, to follow Him. Whither it led me I have tried to outline in this booklet. Certain it is that a life among fishermen was the last place I should have sought at twenty years of age with my background. Not one of my chums selected anything like it. I have tried to subordinate my will to His, and to play across the board as if He were directing my share in the game. True, my five senses have never made me conscious of His physical presence in hours of temptation, fear, discouragement, and doubt; but there are other senses to be relied upon, whether physical or spiritual I cannot say, because as a matter of fact neither I nor any man knows the difference. Thus I can account for, but cannot see, touch, hear, smell, or taste the force which makes my compass needle point toward the north except when deflected by some local mundane stronger line; nor can I account for or my senses perceive why baby seals always beat north in the dark frigid waters beneath the Arctic, ice-fields, nor how polar bears and migrating birds follow tracks which no mortal man can follow-without outside help. All I know is that they get there.

The process of knowing one’s self is a painful one. I remember undertaking to paint the ceiling in our new hospital sitting-room because I thought I could do it without staining the floor or the walls. I did my very best, but, alas! not only was I myself, but my friends were conscious of many stains made through my own fault. Moreover, glue had dropped into my own hair, and certainly I did not wish that! We all need a pilot stronger and better and braver and truer than ourselves, and experience teaches us of none who can compare with the Christ.

In this respect, what has Christ meant to me?—Christ who was the Man of all others who did things. Stanley Jones, in his ‘Christ of the Indian Road,’ exactly depicts my own conception of Him. Our Lord, he says, did not spend much time speculating or talking or writing books. He worked at the carpenter’s bench. He fought temptation in the wilderness and put prayer into action. He healed the sick. He cast out devils. He wept with His friends. He treated women on an equality. Girt with a towel, He washed the feet of fishermen. He personally went and mixed and ate with outcasts. He began His preaching at home. He transformed weak, ignorant, selfish, and cowardly men into heroes. He Himsclf brought heaven to earth wherever He was. His answer to John’s disciples was, ‘Go and tell what you see done.’ He fed the hungry, visited the sick. Even His personal clothing He let go. When men smote Him, He turned the other cheek. He willingly walked all the way to Jerusalem, conscious that He was going to He Cross, so that on it He might bear the burdens of all other men. He was acquainted with sorrows. That made Him capable of being always the man who could smile; and He could weep also, and knew well how to laugh. He must have loved the repartee so wonderfully characteristic of He wisdom that has stood the test of ages. What a twinkle there must have been in His eyes!

If I don’t understand how He walked on the water or how He raised the dead, I am perfectly content to pass on and wait to comprehend those things when I shall have acquired more wisdom than now. God forbid that I should try to circumscribe the genius of greater men than I by the limits of my imperfect cerebral cells. I do not wish to be numbered with the mob who persecuted Galileo, fought Pasteur, tried to kill Lord Lister, drove Morton into his grave, pooh-poohed heavier-than-air aviation, ridiculed automobiles and even steam railways, sneered at Dr. Bell and his telephone dream as a lunatic, and refused to help the discoveries of radium and X-rays until those efforts took the form of dividend-paying shares on the stock market. ‘The mark of greatness,’ said Gladstone, ‘is not how little, but how much, a man believes in.’

How does such a Christ help to reconsecration? He helps by setting the highest possible standards in Himself, by actually challenging us to look at Him and daring us to follow Him. That is the way to inspire mankind. That is what Christ has done for me a thousand times. Were I to hear Him say once to the fallen woman or to the traitor Judas, ‘Go to hell with your sins,’ or threaten punishment to His weakest follower, then it would all be different. I can understand His saying to the man who definitely refused to do anything with his talent, putting it away from beyond his reach by burying it till his death, ‘Take it away from him.’ I understand a righteous judge summing up a closed life judicially by saying, ‘You did nothing to help any one; neither the naked, the hungry, the sick, the down-and-outs, not even the children. Go to the place prepared for the Devil.’ Such living is a negation of life. That is why also I can understand a plan of redemption which calls for any sacrifice for love, especially the divine love of which there is no fathoming the depth. Yes, it makes intelligible that which, for want of any better way of expressing it in human language, we call ‘the sacrifice of God’s only Son.’ That, too, Christ means to me. I am conscious that for me my only hope of salvation in this world lies in Christ.

The faith in Christ upon which I have based my life has given me a light on life’s meaning which has satisfied my mind, body, and soul. The hope that through that faith He would reveal a way of life here which justifies it has been more than answered; and it seems to me ever more reasonable to hold that it will ‘carry on,’ just as gloriously when we have passed beyond the limits of what material machines can reveal to us. That the Love which has made itself conscious to me through forty-odd years, and has not failed even when I failed, should desert me when in the presence of God I shall need it most, is to me unthinkable. No. I do not know what redemption means, but, knowing myself, I cannot avoid realizing the necessity for it, nor can I see any reason why my glad acceptance of faith the only way I ever heard of should olTcnd my intellect because I do not fully understand it.

Humility is an essential of all true science. Why not in this, the greatest of all? Pharpar and Abana are denied me. Am I foolish because I accept the waters of Jordan?

He who would valiant be
'Gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy
Follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent;
His firm avowed intent
To be a Christian.
   — Bunyan