A Moment to Reflect

23 July 2020

A Moment to Reflect -69


I never liked the rats that scrabbled about the back court of our tenement, particularly if I had to visit the outside toilet at night but as it happened neither they, nor the burn that flowed past the end of the house were the only hazards encountered in my early childhood in Port Glasgow.

More of that in a moment. In the meantime, let me ask…

Have you ever found something valuable? or interesting?

I remember as a child finding a ten-shilling note on the pavement.

It was duly handed over to the police, though later returned to me as the person who lost it didn’t claim it within the required time period.

For those not old enough to know, a ‘ten-bob note’ was worth half the value of £1—in other words 50p, although in those days there were actually 240 pennies in the pound. 

The picture shows twelve old pennies which made only one shilling. By the way, an old pre-decimal penny weighed 9.45grams. So, a pound’s worth of pennies would have weighed a massive 2.268kilos! (Talk about the ‘pound in your pocket’!!) Apparently, the average wage in 1960 was less than £4 a week, so ten-bob was a fair amount of money for a six-year-old to discover lying on the pavement! 

And yet it was not my most spectacular find.

There was one day in the back court of our tenement when I was playing with my older sister. My mother came out to call us in for tea and was absolutely horrified to notice that I was holding …a gun. 

Now, to be honest, most little boys in those days could be seen running around with toy guns playing either at soldiers or ‘Cowboys and Indians.’ And I did have my own ‘cap’ gun and cowboy hat in the house. But this was no toy!

I was struggling to hold it up properly because it was so heavy. (Though, in fact, it didn’t weigh as much as ten shillings in old pennies!)

Of course, I had to hand in that find too. My mother took it to the police station.

The bad news was that what I had found was a genuine Luger Pistol, of the kind used by German Army officers in the Second World War. The police reckoned it had either been a trophy from the war that someone had tried to dispose of (mainly because it was illegal to hold on to it) or that it had been used in a robbery. The good news was that the gun wasn’t loaded. I dread to think what might have happened had that not been the case.

As with my ten-bob note, after the three months had elapsed and no one had appeared to claim their lost property, the police said we could have the gun—though only after it had been disabled and made incapable of firing, or we could leave it to them so that they could use it for target practice. My mother chose the latter option and the police invited her and my sister who was with her at the time to witness the gun being fired at their firing range. (I wasn’t with them on that occasion.)

When you travel along the journey of life all sorts of things, people and events that you weren’t looking for are likely to surprise you as they suddenly appear in your path. You won’t always know immediately whether those surprises may be to your benefit or potentially cause you or others serious harm. Sometimes, we need the wisdom of God to help us ‘weigh up’ whether something is good for us or not and then we need courage and strength from God not only to make the right choices but also to stick with them.

On the topic of ‘finding,’ people sometimes talk about ‘finding God’ (as if God could ever be lost) or of ‘finding faith.’ 

Henri Nouwen has an interesting perspective on that notion.“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming