SCRIPTURE VERSE. Psalm 18: 15, 16.
Thou O Lord art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me and have mercy upon me; give Thy strength unto Thy servant.
That morning I drove to the edge of the forest. It was miles away from home, and my husband Kiran was not expected until the following day. The sun was out in all its glory. But in my heart was a chillness I couldn’t shake off. I was floundering in a sea of dark despair, and all I wanted was an end to a life gone awry. From the bench where I rested, I could see the river below. Its waters beckoned enticingly.
Four years of misery is a very long time. I was then a young Nursing Officer in the Army. Being a good pianist, I was often invited to play at our Mess parties, along with a group of officers, who were proficient with other instruments. At the Republic Day party in 1991, I looked up from the key board, into a pair of dark captivating eyes. Earlier, I had seen this dapper young Squadron Leader walk into the Mess with a swagger. His late-coming was intentional. The idea was to create an impression, and bask in that moment of glory, when all eyes were turned on him. In his presence, the women grew starry-eyed, and the men, envious of his good looks and charm.
“Some people have it all,” they grumbled.
He was also the youngest Test Pilot in the country.
“Do you play requests?” he asked.
“Depends on the kind of request, and who made it.”
“Squadron Leader Misra – that’s me. Pleased to make your acquaintance. My request is for a very old favourite – ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow. ‘ …….”
I laughed. “Doesn’t suit the occasion. We’re geared up for fast numbers to which the crowd can dance. They’ll be baying for our necks if we break into a dirge.”
“ Okay, you’re turning my request down at your own peril,” he warned, as he broke into a bewitching grin and walked away.
“Hm,“ said one officer, “ So the elusive bachelor has been smitten by your charms. That’s quite an achievement, Nina. You’ve earned a pat on your back.”
They all thought it was hilarious.
But just a week later, I was the Nursing Officer on duty when Kiran Misra was wheeled into Emergency, after a flying accident. Though in great pain he smiled and said, “ I warned you. Now everytime you look at me, you’ll have a guilty conscience, because you didn’t play my request.”
And so began our romance, as he lay supine in bed for weeks, with a vertebral injury.
We were married a few months after he was discharged, much to the envy of all my female friends. But the men had some reservations.
“ All that glitters isn’t gold, Dear. The man is a megalomaniac.”
“ You can be sure the paint will wash off, once you are married.”
But nothing could change my mind at that juncture. I was very much in love.
“You’re all so jealous of the guy. Why don’t you leave us alone, and stop your gloomy predictions?”
My parents were totally opposed to the marriage. “We’ve brought you up in a Christian home with certain values and principles. How can you enter into any kind of meaningful relationship with someone who proudly claims to be an atheist? The Scripture warns against such alliances.”
“ Oh Papa!,“ I said, “Scripture says that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by his wife. Isn’t it possible that I will lead him to the Lord?”
How naive I was!
The early months of our marriage was sheer Heaven!
“What bliss to be alive!” I thought, as I basked in his love and concern. In my trance-like state, I was completely oblivious of the little pinpricks that punctuated his speech and actions. They were subtly introduced to deflate any egotistic notions I had of myself.
“People must wonder why I fell in love with an ordinary Nursing Officer, when I could have had any one from higher ranks.”
“I won’t be able to take you to visit my relatives. They’re very orthodox and fussy about the caste system. But don’t you worry, I’d rather be tainted by your religion, than remain pure by their standards of caste”
“ The Officers keep saying that I’m a lucky man to have married the prettiest girl on the campus. But I never thought you were pretty when I asked to you to marry me. There I was, confined to bed and so vulnerable……. If you hadn’t come on so strongly, perhaps we‘d never have married.”
Even the most hurtful words were said with a smile, that it took me quite a while, to realise that he was systematically chipping away at my self-esteem.
We were the envy of other young couples in the Station.
“What a lovely pair you make!” said my female friends.
“ Sorry for all the doubts we had,” the men apologised, “He seems to have mellowed under your influence.”
At the Christmas Ball in 1992, I left him talking to a group of friends, and took my seat at the piano. Our little team had been practising our numbers for over a month. But even before we had played the first few chords, Kiran developed severe stomach cramps, and got everyone bothered.
“I hope its not anything serious,” they said, “ One of us can drive you to the hospital.”
“I think I’ll go home. Nina will know how to treat me.”
I drove him home, after apologising profusely to the other members of the Orchestra.
“What a pity you’ve taken ill on Christmas eve! ”
He laughed. “ Taken ill? I would have taken ill watching you play to a drunken, swaying audience. In future, there’ll be no more playing in public. You’ll stay at my side like a good wife , whenever there’s a party,.”
“But I’ve done it since the year I joined the Services, and I enjoy playing with the Orchestra.”
“ Not any more. They can hire a pianist if they like.”
“And I’ll not accompany you to any function again.”
“ We’ll see.” I could feel the threat in his voice.
That night, I wept into my pillow. He had denied me a simple innocuous pleasure, with no reasonable justification. Music was the love of my life. I owned a small synthesizer which
I often played when he was not around. I wondered if he would confiscate that too.
“ Must hide it,” I thought, as I drifted off to sleep.
Marriage to Kiran made me negligent of my spiritual life. Instead of leaning on God, I ran in the opposite direction. I was cleverly indoctrinated into doubting the very existence of God. His explanations were always convincing. He jeered when I read my Bible; He sowed doubts about the efficacy of prayer. My quiet time dwindled down to a few disturbed minutes, and finally petered out. One day, my Bible was gone.
“ Have you seen it?” I asked.
“ You must have misplaced it somewhere. No great harm done. It hasn’t been much of a reforming influence in your life.”
Yes, I had been a backslider. All I wanted was to be perfect in Kiran’s sight. Sometimes, long forgotten words flashed through my mind. “ Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God.” (Jer 2: 19)
“ God couldn’t care less,” I thought. “ If He did, would I be in such a state?”
One day, Kiran came home in high spirits. His stint as a Test Pilot was over. He would be posted to a regular squadron, as a Wing Commander.
“ Now you must give up your job,” he said, elation written on his face. “ I won’t leave without you, and we certainly don‘t need your income anymore.”
I put in my papers meekly. Protests would only backfire on me.
In a new place, I didn’t even have the desire to go out and make friends. Perhaps the best way to keep Kiran happy was to improve my home management. The house was always spic and span. Interior decoration became my obsession, the kitchen my hiding place. There were new dishes every day, and with it, came the irresistible desire to eat. Eating satisfied to a certain extent, my craving for love and affection, but it ruined my waistline. It gave Kiran something more to smirk about.
Kiran thrived on adulation. We never missed a party or social function. He was always centre-stage. These were opportunities for him to show up my inadequacies. I was afraid to enter into any meaningful conversation with people, because he would promptly cut me down to size, and make me feel an ignoramus. “How would you know Honey? You’re so innocent about the ways of the world.”
According to him, I was such a loveable darling, and needed to be taken care of.. I couldn’t do anything for myself, and he was totally committed to my happiness.
“ You lucky girl!” they said, “ Your husband simply dotes on you. I wish mine was so considerate.”
I could only smile back. Many times, I tried confiding in friends. But I had no external bruises to show, and no one believed.
“ Come on, Nita, stop moaning. Be thankful you’ve got such a wonderful husband.”
“ There are always ups and downs in marriage. You musn’t be so touchy. He doesn’t booze or beat you up. I hope you’re not going into premature menopause or something like that.”
My parents had never reconciled to my marriage with an unbeliever. It had saddened them, but I had never bothered to mend fences. They lived in a small town on the coast, and presumed I was happy and content with my life. A desperate urge to seek their advice, took hold of me.
“ We’ll go there on our next holiday,” Kiran said. But if he came along, it would defeat the very purpose of my visit.
So I sat down and poured out my troubles in a letter to my parents. The answer came swiftly. “ You must realise that marriage is for keeps. You’ve made your bed and you must lie on it. The Godly injunction is that wives should submit to their husbands. Pray for humility and patience. Only when you come near to God, will He come near to you.
Perhaps you should start a family. You’ll have something to take your mind off yourself.”
A family! Kiran wanted my undivided attention. Children would be a nuisance. But his excuse was always, “ How can you look after a family, when you can’t take care of yourself?”
I was going round the bend. My self confidence was in my boots. Lonely, depressed and sad, the fear of losing my mind was staring me in the face. I couldn’t sum up the courage to see a psychiatrist. I was afraid that he might confirm Kiran’s opinion of me – a “ good-for-nothing!” Besides, talking about my marriage to a stranger seemed disloyal. This was the only way out. The river would bring sweet oblivion.
As I stood up to take the final step, an old familiar hymn rang out from near the water’s edge. “ For they that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength……”(Isaiah 40:31)
A hobo in an old tattered coat and pant, a floppy hat perched on his head, was dislodging a silvery fish from the end of his rod. He was going home to cook it, with a triumphant song on his lips. I could afford one small diversion before I literally took the plunge. My heart yearned for some human contact. I followed him to his shelter under a tattered tarpaulin. A stove, a saucepan, a bed roll and a guitar made up his possessions.
“ Good Heavens! Have I a visitor? Or is this an apparition?”
“ Flesh and blood! I heard you sing, and I followed you.”
“ I’m having fish for lunch, and you’re welcome to share. What brings you to this deserted stretch this morning? Are you running away from someone?”
“From life itself. I heard you singing, and wanted to see what kept you so happy.”
With just a little prodding, my story tumbled out. He listened patiently to all I said.
A strange look came into his eyes. “ Our meeting is certainly not a coincidence. This is God’s unerring plan. A day late, and we would never have met. I wasn’t always a tramp. My wealth and status went to my head. I dispensed with God completely. It started my descent into Hell. But even so, God spared me my voice, and with it, I made my journey of faith back to Him, when all the world despised and rejected me.”
He wiped his moist eyes. “I had to repent in dust and ashes. Like David, I threw myself on the mercy of God. Today is my last day in these parts. I have been exonerated of a crime I never committed, and will go back to my old job.”
It was the tastiest meal I had eaten in a long time.
“ You’re probably old enough to be my daughter, but I was never there for her. Perhaps sharing my experience with you, will encourage you to turn back to God. Nothing is impossible with Him.”
He spoke of the magnitude of God’s love and mercy. ( Rom 8:38,39.); The need to take stock of my assets, and regain my self confidence – “ fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose, I had youth, intelligence and a profession! What I needed was courage to confront evil, even if it came in the guise of a caring husband.(Jas.4:4)
“ Your husband is a sick man – probably very insecure deep inside. You might even have to remove yourself from the sphere of his influence. But first, you must make your journey back to the foot of the Cross, via the river of God’s Amazing Grace. Perhaps someday, you will lead your husband to the Lord.”
A sermon from a hobo, had paved my way to peace in a world of pain.
How wonderful it is to be restored to fellowship with God! Its taken a while, but Kiran now knows that his barbs roll off like water on a duck’s back. He knows I’m safe within the hollow of God’s hand. Sometimes, when I’m low, the hobo’s parting hymn drifts back to me, like a beckoning church bell.
“ Trouble on every side, but not distressed,
Perplexed, but never in despair,
Because His Grace – His Grace suffices,
Not just today, but through the countless years.
Persecuted perhaps, but not forsaken,
Cast down but never destroyed,
Because His Love – It never slackens,
He drives away my pain and fears.” (2 Cor.4:8-10)
DEVOTION Psalm 86: 13 –17 .
Tired, depressed and demoralized, we often rely on our own strength to see us through the dark night of our soul. We move further away from God, sometimes developing suicidal tendencies, or totally withdrawing from society. But David knew that deliverance came only from his Heavenly Father. He stretched out his hands in humility, for God’s mercy and overwhelming love. So must we, when Life’s vicissitudes threaten to destroy us. We need courage and strength, and can find it only in the comforting care of a loving and compassionate God.
God of compassion and mercy, forgive my backsliding, and cleanse me of my sin.
Give me a faith so strong, that I will cling to you whatever my circumstances.
Be my strength in distress, my refuge from affliction.
O Father, wipe away my tears, and draw me under the canopy of your love.