FaithPrayers Newsletter – January/February 2016
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
Minnie Haskins, 1875-1957
I first read those words some thirty years ago on a church bulletin. I hurried home, cut off the front of the bulletin, and immediately put it on my refrigerator with magnets. I didn’t want to lose those words. For many years, I would pull out the old bulletin each January and put it back up.
I had no idea where the words came from. The bulletin said the author was “anonymous.” But I did know that something about them spoke to my heart. Much later, I discovered that the author was Minnie Haskins, a grocer’s daughter from Bristol, England. It’s said that the words came to her while standing on an upstairs balcony one night, looking down a lighted path to the gate at the end of the drive.
Her poem was made famous by King George VI in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, as the Second World War was beginning. The world around him was in crisis and longing for hope. The poem had been brought to King George’s attention by his wife, Queen Elizabeth (mother of the current Queen Elizabeth), and it was recited at her funeral some 63 years later.
These words have impacted so many people. Every time I mention them to someone familiar with them, their face lights up. Or, if they haven’t heard them yet, they immediately say, “Please send me that poem!”
Why do those lines affect us so?
I think it is because we immediately acknowledge the truth of them. We don’t know the future. We don’t know what the year will hold. And we know, deep down, that we don’t.
And yet . . . to know that at that gate, at the head of the year, we do indeed have one place, even in the darkness, to cling to — the hand of God. Better than light. Safer than a known way.
Carved now above the chapel at Windsor Castle, and strewn across an assortment of papers and books around the world, Minnie’s poem has the rare honor of residing among the most often quoted works of the twentieth century. It has been recited in many languages. It has been set to music.
Minnie was an academic in both sociology and philosophy, teaching at the London School of Economics. Yet it is her poem that has come down in history, penned one night while she was standing alone on a balcony, watching the lights in the night, seeing a gate at the end of a road.
What is it in your life that you brush aside for bigger things? What story, poem, song, dance, words of help, or encouraging thought? What meal could be cooked, what hospital visited, what sweater knit, what new business started, what sermon preached, what lesson taught, what car repaired, what friend made, what trip undertaken, what money given to help?
Maybe that little thing is not so small after all.
Four lines of a poem. Resonating with a world of people. Thank God that Minnie wrote down her words that night. She continues, in her poem:
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still!
May we indeed see daybreak this year. Blessings to you at the Gate of the Year. . . .
Mary Ann Offenstein
Founder & Director
FaithPrayers National Prayer Line
Scripture of the Month
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory”