"In my junior years at school, we were inundated with Bible stories. I’m sure that we didn’t differentiate much between those stories and all the other stories that we were told or that were read to us. Of course, we understood that Bible stories were somehow “special” because they were from the Bible, but we were more than happy to listen to them.
The magic involved in “The Feeding of the Five Thousand” was something to marvel at, while “The Good Samaritan” and “The Prodigal Son” were stories with messages of which we were quite aware. The Talents' tale, where one man buried his “talents”, so as not to risk losing them and so incurs the wrath of his master was a trifle more obscure for our young minds.
How many times we drew Joseph in his “coat of many colours” is hard to remember. The wonderful thing about the chance to draw Joseph, was that it involved using every different “Lakeland” (or “Derwent”,if you were one of the lucky ones) coloured pencil.
For some strange reason many of us also enjoyed drawing Jacob having his famous dream of a ladder reaching up to Heaven, while asleep, with his head resting on a large stone. A stone for a pillow! Now that was something to ponder! Perhaps the eagerness to illustrate the story was the chance to draw angels, or at least a very bright light at the top of the ladder.
My favourite, and that of many others, was the story of “Moses in the Bullrushes”. It was fantasy at its best. A little baby, threatened with death (and we dared not try too hard to imagine the reality of such a threat) who was placed in a basket in a stream (how on earth did it stay afloat? we wondered, mentally picturing a basket similar to our mothers’shopping baskets). And the baby, put at further risk by his older sister, Miriam, making a gamble on good fortune playing a part. For the baby Moses to be found by a princess was almost too good to be true.
Another Bible story, happy though its intention may have been, gave me nightmares. It was the one where Samuel is called by God. The young boy hears someone calling his name and asks Eli, who is the only one nearby, if he called him.
“No, not me,” says Eli.
Samuel hears his name being called again and again and each time Eli tells him it is not he who is calling. Eli suddenly realises who is calling Samuel and tells him that it is probably God who wants him.
Gulp! “What will I say?” asks Samuel.
“Just say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth’,” advises Eli.
So Samuel does so and the Lord tells him what he wants him to do.
But what worried me was, what if I heard a voice calling me and I think it might be God. What would I do? How would I escape?
I decided that the only course of action was to pretend that I didn’t hear.
Pretending that I didn’t hear became a way of life for me in later years, but it wasn’t God I was ignoring."