The house where I was born, at 52 Rue Ernest Laude in Brussels, looks exactly as it does in the picture in my mother’s photo album. The old snapshot is a study in grays. The one Lars took last August is in color. The cobblestone street is the same in both. The bricks of which the house is built turn out to be rather pink; the white marble facade of the second and third stories has not changed. They have put new shades in the two first-floor windows, and the people in the pictures are different. In the first, on the second floor wrought-iron balcony in sunshine, stands my mother, twenty-four years old, slim and straight, with a wonderful pile of dark satiny hair. She is wearing a dark ankle-length dress with a wide white cape-collar. In the colored picture there are two cars, and near the front door, very wind-blown, stand I. How I longed to ask the present tenants to allow me to go up to the balcony, even into the kitchen where I was born.
Sixty years and four months had passed since I was last there. My mother had locked the front door when she turned to the Dutch lady who was her helper. “I feel as though I’ve forgotten something.” Adri knew very well what it was, and wondered how far my mother would get before realizing that the five-month-old baby was still upstairs, wrapped in her bunting, ready for the ocean voyage.
There was something wondrously comforting about knowing, as I stood before that unremembered house, that this is where my parents lived, where they loved, where they welcomed into their small cold-water flat the newborn sister of their son Philip. They were missionaries, working with what was then the Belgian Gospel Mission. Lars and I visited the old buildings; the little Flemish chapel where my father taught Sunday School and probably played the Steinway piano that stands therebought by Mrs. Norton, wife of the founder of the mission (she sold her jewels to pay for it).
We looked at an old photo album there with pictures of my grandparents, my great uncle, and my parents. All of the past, I believe, is a part of God’s story of each child of His—a mystery of love and sovereignty, written before the foundation of the world, never a hindrance to the task He has designed for us, but rather the very preparation suited to our particular personality’s need. “How can that be?” ask those whose heritage has not been a godly one as mine was, whose lives have not been peaceful. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing” (Proverbs 25:2). God conceals much that we do not need to know, yet we do know that He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When does that begin? Does the Shepherd overlook anything that the sheep need? William Kay’s note on Psalm 73:22 is this:
“Though I was supported by Thee and living ‘with Thee’ as thy guest, yet I was insensible to Thy presence—intent only on a small section of the visible course of things—like the irrational animals that are ever looking down at the ground they are grazing.” “Yet I am perpetually with Thee, Thou hast laid hold on my right hand/’ wrote the psalmist. “Thou wilt guide me with Thy counsel and afterwards receive me in glory… And as for me, nearness to God is my good; I have put my trust in the Lord God” (vs. 23, 24, 28).
**Excerpt originally published in the Jan/Feb 1988 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.