The Royal Way

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

God's faithfulness I was experiencing continually, and I was also finding out something about His sense of humor.

I had made a covenant with God never to run out of money for school fees. My covenant said nothing about running out of soap. Or toothpaste. Or razor blades.

One morning I discovered I was out of laundry soap. But when I reached into the drawer where I kept my money, all I could find was sixpence. Laundry soap cost eightpence.

'You know that I have to keep clean, God. So will You work it out about the two pennies?" I took my sixpence and made my way to the street where the shops were, and sure enough, right away I saw a sign. "Twopence off! Buy your SURF now." I walked in, made my savings, and strolled back up the hill whistling. There was plenty of soap in that box to last, with care, until the end of school.

But that very night a friend saw me washing out a shirt and shouted, "Say, Andrew, lend me some soap, will you? I'm out." Of course I let him have the soap and said nothing. I just watched him pour out my precious Surf, knowing somehow that he wasn't going to pay it back. Every day he borrowed a bit more". Of that soap, and every day I had to use just a little bit less.

And then it was toothpaste. The tube was really finished. Squeezed, twisted, torn apart, and scraped-finished. I had read somewhere that common table salt makes a good dentifrice. And no doubt my teeth got clean, but my mouth wore a permanent pucker.

And razor blades. I had not thrown away my used blades, and sure enough the day came when I had to resurrect them. I had no hone, so I stropped them on my bare arm. Ten minutes a day on my own skin: I remained clean shaven-but it was at a price.

Throughout this time I sensed that God was playing a game with me. Perhaps He was using these experiences to teach me the difference between a Want and a Need. Toothpaste tasted good, new razor blades shaved quicker-but these were luxuries, not necessities. I was certain that should a real need arise, God would supply it.

And a true need did arise.

It was necessary for foreigners in Britain to renew their visas at periodic intervals. I had to have mine renewed by the thirty­first of December, 1954, or leave the country. But when that month rolled around, I did not have a cent to my name. How was I going to get the forms down to London? A registered letter cost one shilling-twelve pennies. I did not believe that God was going to let me be thrown out of school for the lack of a shilling.

And so the game moved into a new phase. I had a name for it by now. I called it the Game of the Royal Way. I had discovered that when God supplied money He did it in a kingly manner, not in some groveling way.

Three separate times, over the matter of that registered letter, I was almost lured from the Royal Way. I was, that last year, head of the student body and in charge of the school's tract fund. One day my eye lit first on the calendar-it was the twenty-eighth of December-and then on the fund. It happened to contain several pounds just then. Surely it would be all right to borrow just one shilling. And surely not, too. Quickly I put the idea behind me.

And then it was the twenty-ninth of December. Two days left. I had almost forgotten how bitter salt tasted and how long it took to strop a razor blade on my arm, so intrigued was I over the drama of the shilling. That morning the thought occurred to me that perhaps I might find those pennies lying on the ground.

I had actually put on my coat and started down the street before I saw what I was doing. I was walking along with head bowed, eyes on the ground, searching the gutter for pennies. What kind of Royal Way was this! I straightened up and laughed out loud there on the busy street. I walked back to school with my head high but no closer to getting the money.

The last round in the game was the most subtle of all. It was December 30. I had to have my application in the mail that day if it was to get to London on the thirty-first.

At ten o'clock in the morning, one of the students shouted up the stairwell that I had a visitor. I ran down the stairs thinking that this must be my delivering angel. But when I saw who it was, my heart dropped. This visitor wasn't coming to bring me money, he was coming to ask for it. For it was Richard, a friend I had made months ago in the Patrick slums, a young man who came to the school occasionally when he just had to have cash.

With dragging feet I went outside. Richard stood on the white­pebble walkway, hands in pockets, eyes lowered. "Andrew," he said, "would you be having a little extra cash? I'm hungry."

I laughed and told him why. I told him about the soap and the razor blades, and as I spoke I saw the coin.

It lay among the pebbles, the sun glinting off it in just such a way that I could see it but not Richard. I could tell from its color that it was a shilling. Instinctively I stuck out my foot and covered the coin with my toe. Then as Richard and I talked, I reached down and picked up the coin along with a handful of pebbles. I tossed the pebbles down one by one, aimlessly, until at last I had just the shilling in my hand. But even as I dropped the coin into my pocket, the battle began. That coin meant I could stay in school. I wouldn't be doing Richard a favor by giving it to him: he'd spend it on drink and be thirsty as ever in an hour.

While I was still thinking up excellent arguments, I knew it was no good. How could I judge Richard when Christ told me so clearly that I must not. Furthermore, this was not the Royal Way! What right had an ambassador to hold on to money when another of the King's children stood in front of him saying he was hungry. I shoved my hand back into my pocket and drew out the silver coin.

"Look, Richard," I said, "I do have this. Would it help any?" Richard's eyes lit up. "It would, mate." He tossed the coin into the air and ran off down the hill. With a light heart that told me I had done the right thing, I turned to go back inside.

And before I reached the door the postman turned down our walk.

In the mail of course was a letter for me. I knew when I saw Greetje's handwriting that it would be from the prayer group at Ringers' and that there would be cash inside. And there was. A lot of money: A pound and a half-thirty shillings. Far more than enough to send my letter, buy a large box of soap, treat myself to my favorite tooth­paste-and buy Gillette Supers instead of Blues.

The game was over. The King had done it His way.

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 105-109.

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