I got to know my grandfather, my father’s father, in the Netherlands when I was ten years old, just after World War II. I remember him as a short and well-built man. His blue eyes would look into mine inquisitively, his bristly brown moustache trembling as he asked me searching questions. His left hand would rest on top of his walking stick, his right hand fiddling with the chain that ran from a button on his waistcoat to a watch hidden in a small side pocket.
Grandfather had served as a cavalry officer in the Dutch army. While in the saddle he could reputedly fire deadly accurate shots with his Colt revolver. All this had not stopped German tanks from overrunning the Netherlands in May 1940 of course but only, he assured me with a twinkle in his eye, because by then he had retired from military service.
He rarely lectured me my grandfather. Whenever he did, he would simply launch a maxim.
“Grasp the nettle by the hand, for God’s sake!”
“The first blow is worth a nugget of gold.”
“Eye on the target, finger on the trigger my boy!”
I now realize that these maxims expressed his philosophy of life. They revealed priorities he had made his own. They amounted to part of the self definition he had worked out for himself. I now regret I did not ask for his story, for his telling me how he had come to adopt the priorities that ruled his life.
This book is about my self definition, about the understanding I developed about myself as a Christian. It tells my story. It relates how and why I have come to discover the key principles that hold my inner world together.
Autobiographies fascinate people I am told if they narrate unusual experiences and genuine feelings. Well, I had plenty of those and will be happy to share them. But I want to go further in my story, advance beyond remarkable memories however captivating they might be, dig deeper than feelings and emotions. I want others to profit from my journey. In my stumbling or lurching forward others may see a mirror of their own oscillating search; and discover permanent values as I have done.
Talking about religious faith, if it is to make sense, is always autobiographical in nature; even though the real topic transcends the individual who shares his belief. So I am sharing my story but at the end I also present the list of priorities that gradually have come to constitute my self definition. They are like the maxims my grandfather had stored in his head.
Yes, this book is very personal; embarrassingly so. It records my own personal convictions and the resolutions of a life time. I would not dream of making them public but for the thought that by sharing my experiences and convictions I may ‘affirm’ like-minded people who seek to be committed Christians in our complex world. I offer it to them as a prompting rather than as a model; which I am sure it is not. Reflecting on my way of seeking wholeness, they will, perhaps, discover more clearly their own priorities and what the Spirit is saying to their own heart.
John Wijngaards, My Story – My Thoughts, Foreword