Though at the time I had considered myself a hero for burning the Gospel, my heart found no peace. Indeed, my unrest only increased, and I was miserable for the next two days. On the third day, when I could bear it no longer, I rose at 3:00 A.M. and prayed that if there was a God at all, he would reveal himself to me.
Should I receive no answer by morning, I would place my head on the railroad tracks and seek the answer to my questions beyond the edge of this life.
I prayed and prayed, waiting for the time to take my last walk. At about 4:30 I saw something strange. There was a glow in the room. At first I thought there was a fire in the house, but looking through the door and windows, I could see no cause for the light. Then the thought came to me: perhaps this was an answer from God. So I returned to my accustomed place and prayed, looking into the strange light. Then I saw a figure in the light, strange but somehow familiar at once. It was neither Siva nor Krishna nor any of the other Hindu incarnations I had expected. Then I heard a voice speaking to me in Urdu:
“Sundar, how long will you mock me? I have come to save you because you have prayed to find the way of truth. Why then don’t you accept it?”
It was then I saw the marks of blood on his hands and feet and knew that it was Yesu, the one proclaimed by the Christians. In amazement I fell at his feet. I was filled with deep sorrow and remorse for my insults and my irreverence, but also with a wonderful peace. This was the joy I had been seeking. This was heaven…Then the vision was gone, though my peace and joy remained.
When I arose I immediately went to wake my father and tell him what I had experienced — to tell him that I was now a follower of Yesu. He told me to go back to bed. “Why, only the day before yesterday you were burning the Christians’ holy book. Now you say you are one of them. Go and sleep, my child. You are tired and confused. You will feel better in the morning.”
Sardar Sher Singh tried to be understanding and patient, for he felt the boy was still distraught from the loss of his mother. So he discreetly avoided discussing Sundar’s strange experience. Sundar in turn spent most of his time in solitude and meditation, seeking penance and wondering how to atone for his mockery of the One who had revealed himself to him. Deep within, he sensed that release would only come if he was prepared to serve Yesu as one serves a master — to publicly declare himself a follower of the very being he had publicly insulted.
No one could have foreseen the outcry that followed. Robbed of their ringleader, Sundar’s peers turned on their Christian teachers (and on Sundar himself ), hurling abuse, accusing them of forcibly converting the boy, despite Sundar’s repeated assertions that the teachers knew nothing of what had happened. Feelings ran so high that the school had to be closed, and the missionaries escaped to Ludhiana.
At home Sardar Sher Singh tried everything he could to dissuade his son from his new-found faith. At first he exercised patience. Then he appealed to the boy’s honor:
- My dear son — light of my eyes, comfort of my heart — may you live long! As your father, I appeal to you to consider your family. Surely you do not want the family name to be blotted out. Surely this Christian religion does not teach disobedience to parents. I call on you to fulfill your duty and to marry. I have chosen your bride, as is our custom, and everything is prepared. As an engagement present I will give you a legacy of 150,000 rupees that will provide enough interest for you and your family to live comfortably for a lifetime. Your uncle will add to it a chest of gold.
I am not an unreasonable man, my child. But if you refuse me, I will know that you are determined to dishonor your family and I will have no alternative but to disown you. You wear the bracelet of the Sikh, you wear your hair uncut as is the sign of the Sikh, you bear the name of a Sikh. Have you forgotten the meaning of the name that our fathers adopted? Have you forgotten what it means to be a Singh?
- No, Father; the name means “lion.”
- You know the meaning of your name, yet act like a jackal of the desert. Why? The time has come for you to make your choice.
Sundar Singh returned to his room and prayed. Then he cut off his hair.
The face of Sardar Sher Singh was dreadful to behold. Rage born of frustration, desperation and shame reddened his eyes. In the presence of the entire household, his heart heavy with grief, he led his son to the door as darkness was falling. Already death had taken his wife and one son; now he was to lose his beloved Sundar. But he saw no choice: the boy had made his decision. Now he spoke the fearful curse:
“We reject you forever and cast you from among us. You shall be no more my son. We shall know you no more. For us, you are as one who was never born. I have spoken.”
The door closed behind him.
I will never forget the night I was driven out of my home. I slept outdoors under a tree, and the weather was cold. I had never experienced such a thing. I thought to myself:
“Yesterday I lived in comfort. Now I am shivering, and I am hungry and thirsty. Yesterday I had everything I needed and more; today I have no shelter, no warm clothes, no food.”
Outwardly the night was difficult, but I possessed a wonderful joy and peace in my heart. I was following in the footsteps of my new master — of Yesu, who had nowhere to lay his head, but was despised and rejected. In the luxuries and comforts of home I had not found peace. But the presence of the Master changed my suffering into peace, and this peace has never left me.
Copyright 2007 by Plough Publishing House. Used with permission.