Reminiscences of an octogenarian

To ascend the balcony of remembrance, as I have been invited to do, and in retrospective mood describe the road I have traversed, interpreting the things learned on the way, confronts this traveler with a delicate task. Yet there are indeed moments in life’s pilgrimage when action on the road must give place to reflection from the balcony.

From the balcony of quiet retirement, therefore, let an oldster whose Celtic surname means “son of a firebrand” briefly recount some of his life’s most creative experiences. Let him identify the major realities that have shaped his thinking and his living down the years. Let him also set in relief some crucial issues, in both the secular and the religious order, that have stirred within him ever deepening concern.

My life’s most revolutionary discovery was the reality of God as a loving and sovereign Presence. This discovery came in early boyhood. Following a period of anxious yearning, expressed each night before falling asleep in the words “Lord, help me,” I experienced a revolutionary change of attitude toward God, toward myself, and toward others. Of a sudden I found myself a new being. The Bible, especially the Psalms and the Letters of St. Paul, became more exciting reading than the books of fiction I adored.

The passage that gripped me most deeply and interpreted to me most fully my new selfhood was that affirmation of Paul to fellow Christians in Ephesus, “And you he made alive, when you were dead …” (Eph. 2:1). The way was opened for an understanding of grace, the Gospel, and the new life in Christ. Moments of rapture and ecstasy were not uncommon in those first months. In solitary hikes among the Scottish hills I conversed with God. Jesus Christ became ...

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