A Letter…From The Netherlands
This issue contains a letter from Mrs. Van Spronsen of the Netherlands. Many of our people have met Mrs. Van Spronsen when she was visiting in America with Mr. Van Spronsen a few months ago. During her visit she consented to write for Beacon Lights and the letter in this issue is the result of her promise. We wish to express our appreciation for her letter.
We took the liberty to translate her letter in order that our readers might understand it. It was not easy to translate and upon its completion we submitted it to the criticism of an authentic Dutchman. Mr. P. Alphenaar of Kalamazoo, Michigan, very graciously consented to look it over and his knowledge of the Dutch language gave us an improved translation.
Concerning the contents of the letter, it speaks for itself. I wonder if you can read anything between the lines.
Dear Young People:
It is with great pleasure that I fulfill the request of the editors of Beacon Lights to write an article for your paper. We have made personal acquaintanceship with many of you and a number of photos in our big American album clearly remind us of the numerous pleasant contacts and it is a joy for me to renew these contacts even though it is in a literary manner by means of Beacon Lights. Various numbers of this paper lay before me on the writing desk. Before I began to write I had leafed through them once again and many familiar names found there make it much easier of me to write to you. Once again I feel “at home” and it seems as if we are able to speak to each other even as we did a few months ago when we were with you. And it is good to look at it that way for if we, as the Bible says, only see that which our eyes see, then we are far removed from one another.
A broad ocean lies between us and with many of you there is, above all for those in California and Montana, the broad expanse of American land. Fortunately it is, that we as Christians can and must see things differently. In spite of all the great distances we are still one in spirit and this bridges the widest separation and greatest differences which may exist in circumstances. We are beginning to stand so close together with one another, you in America with all its riches, we in the Netherlands with all its cares. So it is with all of us, young and old. So I feel myself to be one with you because we all stand before a great and eternal future.
Now, especially at the beginning of the new year, our minds, more than usual, are concerned with time. A whole year once more lies before us. What shall we do with it? What shall the year, no, what shall God do with us in 1948? We have so many questions and so many plans. That is fine; naturally you should have and make many plans. I approve of young people with a mind full of plans for the future. They are people with zest.
But before you know it the year is gone, and then it is the same thing all over again. You look back for a moment, for just an instant but then you look ahead again and try again to go courageously into the new year. This time you will do better. So it goes on again. Eventually there comes some difference. As you become older, one glances backward more and forward less. Yet we are always longingly hopeful or anxious, staring into the secretive new year. What will it bring? So it shall continue until God, in a moment, brings us over to the land where there is no more time and where we do not reckon and number new years and times.
That is still far away, we say and think, while we are still young. It is perfectly natural to think thus but that does not take away the fact that we are on a journey to the great future. And what are a few earthly years, even eighty or ninety, compared with an eternity? We are all travelling on that road. Yes, believer and unbeliever. But it is wonderful that I write this to you young people who, perhaps very quietly and very timidly, perhaps only to yourself, dare to say that they believe in Him who gave His life for us, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they love Him. Therefore, I can write with all the gladness of my heart, this New Year and every New Year proclaims to us time and temporality but we are on the road to eternity. And banquet-goers, we are on the road!
Banquet-goers! It does not look much like it, some would say. They point us to the sorrows, griefs and cares, even in our young lives. Certainly that grief, that sorrow, those cares are present with so many people. And sometimes it appears as though a double portion rests on those who believe. But certain it is that we travel as banquet-goers.
A banquet-goer is not yet at the banquet. He is on the way. The way may be long, sometimes difficult with many dark corners but at the end there is the banquet hall. This glad certainty dominates all your progress along the way.
You are still young, therefore you can still very well recall that as a child, so innocent, you could be completely happy with the anticipation of a banquet or party in the near future. Joyfully and cheerfully you thought of all that might happen at the party and who of your friends might be there and whom you might see of your family. Carefully mother’s hands made a new dress and all that belongs to it or a new suit was purchased. It was hung in a corner of the clothes closet, carefully covered and out of sight. You knew for certain that it was there. But you had to wait a little while. In the meantime each day you had to do your usual work. Sometimes you had old and dirty clothes on just good enough for the work that you had to do. It was not nice but in your work, with your old clothes on you thought happily of the new clothes hanging in your closet. Things would be different. Only a few more days—meanwhile you were happy in your work—in your old clothes.
You went to school and studied your lessons which can sometimes be so difficult and monotonous. Back of it all, however, was the glad certainty of the new things. So you did when you were a child, joyous in circumstances that for the moment were far from festive. The banquet or party gave you joy in anticipation. That thought of the coming party kept you happy in spite of difficult and burdensome moments. But also in another manner that anticipation influenced your actions.
The banquet or party would come but first the work must be done or the lessons at school must be learned. That was quite definite. If the work was not done or the lessons were not in good order, mother or father would say: “You may not go….” In that manner also the party controlled your actions. Banquet-goers, thus are we together, both young and old.
Banquet-goers, you in your land of abundance, we in our land full of anxiety. Yes, precisely because of this I dare to write this to you, here from the Netherlands where the cares are still many and for numberless people the lack of the barest necessities still exists, for God has taught us this lesson through the dark days of the war.
It sounds strange then to learn to be a banquet-goer. Naturally it seems strange, worse it seems foolish. But we are now speaking the language of the world. They only see that which the eye sees. From that viewpoint there is no festivity. Thus it is often in the lives of those who believe. They often do foolish things according to the standard of the world. Here in the Netherlands we often sing at an open grave. Then we often sing Psalm 89. We raise high our heads and shall wear the crown of glory. Wear a crown of glory….we sing that but we stand before an open grave where everything speaks of death, destruction and decay. Yet we sing and are comforted for by faith we see over the grave beyond to the future with our Lord Jesus Christ.
In that manner we observed Christmas in the war. You have read of those times in your papers. The London radio broadcast did not hide the fact that losing battles were raging on all fronts. Germany seemed to have the upper hand. The road to the concentration camp was populated with our best citizens. Rightfully could we have sung from Psalm 97, “about Him are clouds and darkness.” But thanks be to God, it was Christmas and we had a true Christmas sermon. Therefore we could sing “peace on earth” and be comforted. For the world this again was foolishness.
Exactly in those dark times, I began to learn better that this is temporary. All of us in our land oppressed from all sides, learned to bear everything. One solaced another with…”soon.” Then peace will come and the future will be built again. No matter how bad the news or how discouraging the facts, one or the other still knew how to discover a ray of light. It would change. We would become free again. So we bore everything. All shortage, all scarcities, all unrest, all compulsion in as far as it was not in conflict with God’s Word, everything, because it was temporary. Sometimes there was hardly any reasonable ground for this optimism but we retained our courage. Soon—there was no enemy in our land, we could freely cross the street again, no Gestapo, no prison or concentration camp in the vicinity, no compelling hunger. Thus we go farther, cautiously on the one hand, to the limit on the other hand, doing that which must be done.
The certainty of that other future helped us. I often thought then that it is good that we look at things that way and now we learn as Christians very plainly what it means to see our life in the light of the great future of our Lord Jesus Christ. That moment certainly shall come. That is a future which will never disappoint any true banquet-goer. When our future became a reality after the peace making, there was still much that caused bitter disappointment. We understand very well what the Bible means when is says, “Watcher, what of the night? The morning is come and it is still dark.” But when once the future of our Lord Jesus Christ is a reality for us then there shall not be a single disappointment for He promised that He would wipe away all tears from our eyes and we shall see Him personally face to face. The world says mockingly “foolishness, a check made out to you for eternity.” That doesn’t matter, we get used to that, we continue on our way for we have a joyous certainty through His Word and Spirit. Therefore we go assuredly and also happily into 1948.
Now we all would like to glance curiously into the secretive New Year. That is easy to understand. But we cannot go any further because the harder we look, the less we know about it. Nor is it necessary. If we only know with certainty, complete certainty, that we go into the year as a banquet-goer. On the way to the banquet hall we may perhaps come through some dark regions, sometimes we get a burden which is very hard to bear each day. It is possible. I would not make you somber but you see it often around you with many whom you love. Then again the way God leads us may be smooth and peaceful. But He guides us, in His way to His banquet hall. That makes everything good in our lives. Also in 1948. May God give all of you a lively consciousness to be a banquet-goer. That indebts us but that is also comforting. Now and always.
That is the best that I wish for you in 1948. With many hearty greetings,
Mrs. H. Van Spronsen
GOES Wilheminastraat 24 Nederland.