Only One Key

     Sundar Singh.  It was he whose little world had collapsed when his mother died as he was near fourteen.  Despondent, dejected, he was angry at God and angry at the world.  In his despair he bought a copy of the Christian’s Bible so that he could tear it page by page and throw it on the fire.

     Then, in deep gloom, he retired to his room and stayed there for days.  One night he prayed earnestly, ”Oh, God—if there be a God—reveal Thyself to me tonight.”  The express from Ludhiana to Lahore would go by at five in the morning, and he determined that if God had not revealed Himself to him by then, he would go out and lay his head on the rails and settle the matter.  He prayed on through the night.

     At a quarter to five he rushed out of his room and awakened his father.  He told him he had seen a vision of Jesus and was now a Christian!

     His father said, “You must be mad!  You come while I am sleeping and say you are a Christian---yet it is not three days past that you burned the Christian book!”

     Sundar stood rigid, looking at his hands.  “These hands did it.  I can never cleanse them of that sin till the day I die!”  Then he turned to his father. “but till that day comes my life is His!”

     And that’s the way it was.  Because he wanted to win India for Christ and because there was much prejudice against all things western, he adopted the yellow robe of sadhu and wore it till his death.

     Sadhu Sundar Singh had a great burden, too, for Tibet.  And he was a born adventurer.  Almost every summer, for the rest of his life, he managed somehow to get to Tibet.  And the more he was persecuted the happier he was. 

     One summer things had gone especially bad.  From the day he crossed the mountains there was trouble.  Villagers refused him any hospitality.  He nearly drowned in a swift-flowing, icy river.  Food was scarce.  He was cruelly treated.  Lamas and priests led the peasants in their persecution of him.  Preaching Jesus in Tibet could easily mean death.  But death held few terrors for him.  He was concerned only with being true to his Lord.

     Matters reached a climax in a town called Razar.  He began preaching in the marketplace, sleeping at night in the unsheltered compound where traders and beasts pressed together for warmth.  At first his preaching drew interested crowds.  But when the chief lama heard of his preaching, the interest of the people turned to fury.

     One morning the guard from the monastery seized the sadhu and dragged him away for a brief trial.  And as he looked into the hard face of the Grand Lama, he knew that one of two things would happen to him.  He would either be sewn inside a wet yak skin and it would be left in the heat of the sun to dry and shrink until it crushed him to death; or he would be thrown into a deep, dry well on top of the corpses of those who had been thrown there before him, to die of starvation.

     It was the well.  He was dragged there and beaten and thrashed until a blow sent him headlong into it.  Then he heard the lid being locked.  The stench was sickening, for many others had died there.

     Sundar prayed for deliverance, but how it could come, he had no idea.  One of his arms was broken, so he could not possibly climb to the top.  Even if he could, he could not get out, for the Grand Lama himself had the only key, and by now it would be jangling again on the key ring under his robes.

     Hours passed and became days.  Three days and nights he had spent in the unbearable air of the well.  And then suddenly he heard a key turn in the lock.  The lid opened, creaking on its rusty hinge.  Then he felt a rope touch his face.  At the end of the rope was a loop.  He thrust his leg into the loop and grasped the rope with his good arm.  Slowly he was drawn upward to the top, where he collapsed on the ground and filled his lungs with the fresh night air.  But when he looked around, his deliverer had disappeared!

     Slowly and painfully he crawled back to the place where he had slept before.  Snatches of sleep refreshed him.  When it was light, he bathed, ridding himself of the smell of death—and went back to the marketplace to preach!

     An hour later he was arrested again by furious monks.  The Grand Lama questioned him over and over again.  Who had helped him escape?  Was it a man or a woman?  And whoever it was, how did he or she get the key?  That was the big question.  There was only one key, and it should be in the Lama’s possession.  The Lama pulled aside his robes, stood up, and drew a bunch of keys from the chain.

     “There is but one key to the well.  It should be here.  Who stole it to set you free?  How…”  Suddenly his features took on a look of terror.  He turned to the monks, furious and inwardly afraid.  “Take this man away…away from the town….Set him free…and never let him set foot again in Razar!”

     The key to the well was on his own ring!

     Sundar trusted God for everything—for protection, for food, for whatever he needed.  And when asked about his seemingly immunity from danger, he said simply that God protected him.  And evidently God did.  For even wild animals did not harm him.

     On one occasion he was staying in the home of a friend in the Simla Hills.  Supper was over, and the two sat quietly on the veranda.  When there was a break in the conversation, Sundar moved away, slipping across the lawn toward the forest trees that bounded the garden.  He stood there, gazing at the lights of the villages across the valley.

     Suddenly his friend, still on the veranda, tensed and rose to his feet, terrified at what he saw.  Creeping slowly out of the trees came a leopard.  It paused, gazed for a moment at the motionless sadhu, and then moved toward him.  The friend dared not shout, for fear of causing the animal to spring.  But he couldn’t be silent either.

     Quietly Sundar Turned, saw the animal, and stretched out his hand toward it.  The leopard rose, moved forward, and stood beside Sundar, who stroked its head as he would a pet animal.  The watcher relaxed. There was no need to fear.  There never had been.  The leopard stood, lifting his head to Sundar now and then.  And when the sadhu turned to the house, the leopard’s powerful form disappeared among the trees.

     Is it too much to believe that the angels who released Peter from prison and shut the mouths of the lions for Daniel could do the same for Sundar Singh?

     Or for you!?

M. L. Lloyd