A portrait of a damned soul

An old college friend died a couple of years ago.  I only found out a week or so ago, when I did something that I never do — I logged into Friends Reunited.  A menu highlighted that someone that I knew at college had a page, and it was him.

The page was written by him.  It discussed his life, and gave his thoughts about it.  And then someone had added a note at the bottom with news of his death.

The page made rather sad reading.  His career evidently never went anywhere, and then he gave it up and took a series of short-term jobs, unsuited to a man of his abilities.

This man was an Oxford graduate.  He was brighter than I am, and was in the year above me at college, doing the same subject.  We were, in some ways, very similar people, and I got on well with him. 

In imagination I can still see his window in the Rose Lane Annex.  It was often lit late at night.  I remember going up to see him, at some late hour, as students do, and finding him playing LP’s of Russian composers — he introduced me to Shostakovich — and drinking strange teas.  The one I remember looked more like logwood chippings than tea!  We would discuss politics, in which we were both active, although he was slightly more right-wing than myself.

He had grown up among Christians.  He owned a number of Graham Kendrick LP’s, which I took care to copy.  His parents were simple folk, delighted to have so intelligent a son. 

But he had rejected Christ at some point before I knew him.  I remember him complaining about the Christian Union at college — made up of the brightest that England could produce, remember — that it was not intellectual enough.  He said that he had been along to a bible study, and that he and another would discuss the Greek of the passage, while everyone else looked blank.

But I also remember learning something else about him.  There was a debate in the Union, and I spoke, somewhat ineptly, against the newly fashionable promotion of unnatural vice.  To my surprise he got up — we were sitting together — and spoke for it.  Later he told me that he had become a homosexual.  I didn’t throw him out — indeed I couldn’t really believe it, and tended to treat the profession as one of his eccentricities — but it was odd.  In time he went down from college, as we all did, and I saw him no more.  I kept in contact for a couple of years, but then lost contact with him, and with others of my time at college.

The page makes clear that he never married.  It contains what is perhaps the saddest phrase I ever saw:

I have no children (that I know of).

What self-inflicted emptiness lies behind those words!  I fear that, before I knew him, he came up to college and Satan drew him into sin, to reject Christ, and then on into unnatural vice, thereby cutting him off from everyone.  I remember him saying that he could no longer relate to his parents, in times of trouble.

Now he is dead.  He died at 48 (I think), alone.  What sort of life did he have?  Not much, from the look of it.  Yet he was a marvellous creation of God’s, a “character” in the best sort of way, one that Dickens would have delighted to draw.

He was a decent chap, I always felt, and yet, on the face of it, he lived a miserable life and died without God.  Who can doubt his damnation?  His life was empty.  He neither made himself happy, nor did what God asked.  Poor soul! 

Let us hope that I am wrong, and that, before he died, he repented and turned back to God. 

It is a sobering warning to us all, to take heed of ourselves.  This is not a rehearsal.  This is not play-acting.  This life … this is it.  Either turn to God, or lose even what we think we choose instead.

6 Responses to “A portrait of a damned soul”


  1. berenike

    Who could have doubted that Dismas was damned?

    I found my college CU bible studies insipid and pointless. I don’t know if this is because all the other members were, I think, natural scientists of one kind or another, but judging by their inability to engage with a short text I don’t know how any of them got English GCSE. No interpretation (and we’re not talking doctrinal interpretations here) was considered if it conflicted with the official line given at the OICCU central bible study leaders’ prep session. It was utterly ridiculous.

  2. Roger Pearse

    I too was a member of the OICCU. But we didn’t get that level of direction of our bible studies. It would have been unthinkable. The CU’s in 1979 weren’t under that level of direction anyway. When was this?

    I remember periods when the bible studies were pointless-seeming, dry and empty. But I also remember when suddenly they turned into precious and wonderful things. The difference then was actually in me, I remember.

  3. Maureen

    To be fair, college/university prayer groups and Bible studies are very often enough to drive one to drink or worse. Much like college/university poetry workshops, except that writer’s block, depression, and worry about the state of Western civilization are a lot easier to deal with than religious block. I wasn’t bothered by things not being intellectual; I was bothered by people bringing social hierarchy crup into Bible study, and the bizarre experience of having my entire prayer life treated as something wrong. I could only stick it out with my dormitory’s group for three weeks, but I was busy getting over the experience for a long time. (Mostly because I thought fellow Christians would be allies and a homebase, not more crup to deal with.)

    This is why there are supposed to be some responsible, semi-trained adults around, I suppose.

    But there’s where it helped to be part of a church already. Even when my university parish frustrated me, and even after the group thing had depressed me, I was still at my parish every Sunday. And if that had been too horrible, I could have gone to another parish. I already had a homebase. I could have used more, but I did have that.

    But there were other people I knew at college who didn’t manage to stick with any of their homebases, and others who pretty much went to college hoping to get rid of them. I worry about them still.

  4. Roger Pearse

    CU’s work marvellously for some people and not for others. For me it was great; but you are not the only person to have had difficulties.

    I worry about those with no homebases (good phrase) too.

  5. sftommy

    I have faith your friend is with God already, as I believe God would no more forsake his children than we can, ultimately, forsake Him. I look forward to a lot of explanations when I see Him ; for now it’s faith in his work and the joy of being given this chance at life.

  6. Roger Pearse

    Um. I don’t think that is what the NT says. Jesus certainly emphasises that people can indeed forsake God.



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