My parents, Christians both, looked forward to the day when Thy grace should be shown forth in them through the birth of a long-awaited third son. This birth was to coincide with the day of the celebration of the birth of our Lord, December Five and Twenty. But Thy ways are mysterious, Thy care for the salvation of Thy children is great, and Thou saw fit to send forth travail upon travail and greatly multiply their sorrow. Ten days and a month before Christmas I was sent into the world, a baby premature and without wherewithal to survive independent of all machinery and medical alchemy. Truly, Thy grace provided the dross of my weak mortal coil with the substance to become gold. I have often since reflected on Thy mercy toward me, Thine very own unworthy creature, for had I been born a mere third of a century earlier the doctors of medicine would not have had the contrivances available to keep me from an early and tiny grave, cold in the November ground. How I wonder at the millions of my brothers and sisters who were fated to draw first and last breath in the same hour, at the unmarked graves in plains and jungles, and, especially, at the bereaved and grief-stricken mothers and fathers who bury their children and water the tombs with their tears. My father related to me his experience watching me struggle for survival in the infirmary, how he promised my soul to Thee if Thou wouldst but grant me life. My mother was in another infirmary, the birth of this small child having taken its disastrous toll on her as well. Some days later we took our departure, and though a metal carriage bore our physical bodies, our spirits were borne by Thy winged chariot. Forever will I praise Thy Holy Name, O Luminous One, for Thou are as a light shining forth out of darkness.
In ignorance I grew, knowing not the fate from which Thou hath saved me, nor the reality of my soul’s true Possessor. I supposed I was my own, despite my parents’ teachings and examples. I made a mockery of Thy gospel and ordinance, supposing my sin to be cleansed as if by sorcery upon my impending baptism. I reveled in the opportunity to curse and spout blasphemies, to bear all manner of false witness, to build myself up in pride in the eyes of my peers – and all of this before my ninth year! Forsooth Thou art the Wise and Merciful, the All-Knowing, slow to anger and quick to absolution, for Thou didst cleanse me from my sin in the waters of cleansing; Thou began my conversion in the same holy waters used by others to complete their conversion. The path of Thy plan brought me to purity, a fresh life consecrated again to Thee. Perfection? Nay, the only Perfection worthy of the name is in Thee and Thy Holy Son. But for a moment I was, in Thy broadness and liberality, perfect and clean, prepared for communion with Thee on the Sabbath days. I sought from the day of my consecration to obtain and have discourse with Thy Holy Spirit, to be taught from on high rather than attempt to teach my Lord. As a youth I took part in all manner of foible and insecurity, and yet I knew on Whom I leaned and in Whose Rock a place was cleft for my repose. Lusts of puberty mixed with ignorance of Thy ways, and I fell and was picked back up, the wave of my incontinence known only to Thee, and my cries filled Thy ears, begging in all humility to become worthy of Thy presence. With patience Thou used my parents as instruments in Thy hands to mold me into a worthy tool, a key fit for opening hearts to Thy wisdom and goodness.
With wonder I watched, nearly detached from my earthly body, as Thy preparations came to fruition. I did nothing but what I deemed necessary; I left to Thee the increase. Thou had multiplied my sorrows in sore repentance, and then multiplied my repentance in friends and neighbors in Christ. When I was a bad man, Thy direction moved me towards the good; when I was, in some ways, a good man, Thy direction moved me toward the better. I never stole, but I cheated on occasion – Thy Spirit haunted my conscience and stole from me the cheating tendency. Thy providence shielded me when among the heathen, and protected me from poisons of the body and mind. I watched friends fall prey to the demons of drink and noxious herb, but Thy grace held them close to me in friendship. My abode was open and free to all, and though on occasion my precious things left hidden in the pockets of the unsavory crowd, love and charity paid in gold what was lost in silver. When the fright of evil substances robbed friends of their wits and filled them with fear and uncertainty, our humble couches gave them room to rest and our pantries filled them with meat. We dedicated our home as a temple to Thee. My father worked to provide for temporal needs and neglected not the weightier matters. My mother saw to our true education, to education in Thy light and ways. She welcomed all with open arms, indeed she fed the hungry, gave rest to the weary and clothing to the naked. Though she bore but five children, she was and is the mother of many more.
What praise is owed to Thee, what love of Thine is yet unrequited! This is the holy work of Thy kingdom, to emulate Thy way and character, to lay up in store blessed and sacred possessions in Thy courts above, to eschew evil and the vanity of this material world. Without doubt this world is but a vanity, vanity of vanities, and pride is but enmity towards Thee. May Thy grace cleanse from me all vanity and pride through the Atonement of Thy Son, and may Thy Spirit create in me a clean heart. Cast me not from Thy presence, but save me at last in the house of my great and truest Friend.