I had seen those hazily beautiful cardboard pictures on the walls of many other houses: there was one of Jesus standing in a boat and speaking to a group of people gathered on the shore and another of Him alone holding a sheep.
I do not know if any of the other men in the village sang hymns on Sunday evenings when their wife was in the barn milking the cows, but my father did. Sometimes I stood on the rocker of his rocking-chair listening to him sing. Once the rocker broke, and my father fell back on the floor with the big hymnal in his hand and his black-framed glasses pushed on to his forehead. I still feel like laughing when I remember his horrified expression. At one time I burst out crying when he sang: “Others will leave me but you will not. You will heal the broken hearts, dress the wounds and wipe the tears.” That seemed so very sad to me. When my father asked what was the matter with me, I just said I was having toothache.
The primary school book of Bible stories was one of my favorite books. When we had a catechetical meeting in our village, the vicar asked what the people of Israel did when they ran out of food and water during their journey in the wilderness. Having read my book, I responded that they “murmured against Moses”. All the adults laughed at my literary answer, which made me feel ashamed, but the vicar gently helped me by saying that it was a very good answer.
A few years ago, reading a diary that I had written when I was 12 years old, I was astonished to find these words, ”There is a flickering candle on my table. It looks so romantic, but there is no real atmosphere here. Something is lacking. My soul is yearning for something. I have often prayed, and I believe I will find clear water for my soul. Or not I by myself but He that is the Creator of all things.”
Years passed, and my lifestyle did not differ from that of my age mates. In some way, however, I gradually began to drift away from them. There were times when I suffered from a profound feeling of emptiness. I read a lot. One summer I read through the whole Bible. I was touched by the words of Ecclesiastes: all is vanity under the sun.
I lived in the country but attended secondary school in town. While I was in senior secondary school, my aunt moved to town, and I sometimes stayed overnight with her. In addition to the national church, there were more than ten religious groups that arranged meetings in the town where she lived. I decided to find out about them all. I checked the local newspaper for the schedules of their events. I had already been to a few, but the only thing I remembered about them was the warm atmosphere.
On the day before Epiphany Day I went to the evening service of the Eastern Orthodox Church. I was a great fan of Russian literature, and I felt enchanted by the pictures and the brilliant colors, the fragrance of frankincense and the beauty of the liturgy. That very same evening, after the Orthodox service, I went to Laestadian services.
Straight from the street I entered a small lobby. There was a kitchen on the right side and a sanctuary with light yellow wooden pews on the left. There was a pulpit, a harmonium and two black-and-white pictures on the wall. Martin Luther and Lars Levi Laestadius. I sat down in the back pew next to some elderly ladies.
When the speech began, I think I experienced something similar to Luke’s description of the men who were sent by the pharisees and chief priests to capture Jesus. They returned empty-handed. When the priests pressed them for the reason why they did not bring Him, they said, ”No man has spoken like He spoke.” I also wondered why none of the other speakers I had listened to had spoken like that Laestadian speaker. He explained everything exactly how it was. Some of the ladies sitting next to me stood up and asked to have their sins forgiven. I stood up, too.
After that evening I no longer needed to seek. I began a journey on a way that I had never known existed. My memories of the bright April sun, the Easter and my first summer services fill my heart with the kind of joy described in Psalm 122, ”I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’.”
The Church Father Augustine said that the human heart is restless until it finds rest in God. I found this to be true. I was also touched by Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Creed, ”I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel.”
All things in my life have been shaped by God’s incomprehensible grace. I would never have found unless I had been called to seek.
Text: Tuula Stång
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
Monet suunnitelmat ovat tänä poikkeuksellisena keväänä muuttuneet. Muun muassa perhejuhlien järjestelyjä on pitänyt miettiä uudelleen. Tämä on koskenut myös avioliittoon vihkimisiä. Nyt vihkimisiä on toimitettu niin, että koolla on ollut vain joitakin läheisiä, ja muu juhlaväki on seurannut tilaisuutta ehkä virtuaalisesti. Hääjuhlia on jouduttu siirtämään myöhäisempiin ajankohtiin. Jotkut hääparit ovat siirtäneet tämän vuoksi myös avioitumistaan.