This is the illustration by Michael Sevier from the cover of the 1916 edition of Where God Is, There Is Love Also. (You can read the short story online here.) I read it in my collection of Christmas Stories from Everyman’s Library; I’m so moved by it that I’m going to read it to my family on Christmas Day.
It is about a cobbler, named Martin Avdeitch, who lives in a tiny room in a basement. His wife, and all of his sons have died, and it is hard for Martin to find the desire to live.
One day an old man from Martin’s native village, who had been a pilgrim for the last eight years, called in on his way from Troitsa Monastery. Martin opened his heart to him, and told him of his sorrow.“I no longer even wish to live, holy man,” he said. “All I ask of God is that I soon may die. I am now quite without hope in the world.”The old man replied: “You have no right to say such things, Martin. We cannot judge God’s ways. Not our reasoning, but God’s will, decides. If God willed that your son should die and you should live, it must be best so. As to your despair – that comes because you wish to live for your own happiness.”
He advises Martin on how to live, which I will not reveal here, and his words “sank deep into Martin’s heart, and that same day he went and bought himself a Testament in large print, and began to read.”
The story continues Martin’s lessons in happiness, in the fulfillment of the promise revealed to him when he heard quite distinctly one night: “Martin, Martin! Look out into the street to-morrow, for I shall come.”
Martin waits all day, and the visitors who appear change his life forever.
I loved the image of Martin buying a Testament, and eagerly turning its pages every night. I have read through the Bible many times, over many years, but after feeling it more of an obligatory task than one purely of my heart I abandoned that plan in 2010. I am now ready to pick it up again. As the new year begins, so does a new opportunity to read through the Bible in a year. I’m going to post the readings which will take me through the Bible in 2013 in the upper sidebar of my blog. I invite any who choose to accompany me in this year long goal to participate. I will post favorite verses, things I’ve seen in a whole new way, as I go. I’d treasure your presence with me if you so desire to commit to a year. A month. A week.
As Martin did.