Of all the places I take the dog for a walk, our favourite is ‘Old Redding’. Jack and I have tramped through the woods in snow, rain and sunshine for eleven years.

Set deep into the woods is a hotel called “Grim’s Dyke”. The name comes from a prehistoric earthwork built for a purpose long lost to human recollection. The hotel was formerly the home of W. S. Gilbert the librettist and playwright. I performed in his operettas at school, such as “HMS Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance”. But there is another side to him of which I was unaware until coming across the lake in the photograph above.

This body of water was used by Gilbert, his family and guests as a swimming pool. He even gave swimming lessons there. On one such occasion in 1911 two local girls were receiving a lesson when one of them, Ruby Preece, got into difficulties. Gilbert dived in to the rescue, but suffered a heart attack in the water and died (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._S._Gilbert#Later_years).

Three spiritual lessons come to mind from this example of self-sacrifice:

  1. He felt responsible for the person in trouble. Every individual is responsible for their own sin (“The one who sins is the one who will die.”, Ezekiel 18:20 NIV11-GK), but we all need someone to feel a sense of responsibility for our soul (“if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently”, Galatians 6:1 NIV11-GK). Do you have someone in your life who cares about your spiritual well-being, and can you be such a person to someone else?
  2. He was old (74) but still willing to risk his life. Age does not need to dull our zeal for God’s purpose in our life. Caleb is the stand-out example of someone who never lost his spiritual vigour (“So here I am today, eighty-five years old!…. I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.”, Joshua 14:10–11 NIV11-GK). What steps are you taking to preserve your spiritual zeal as you get older as a Christian?
  3. He died helping someone he cared about. God cared about us before we cared about him (“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”, 1 John 4:10 NIV11-GK). If we are going to help people come to God to be saved we must first feel a sense of spiritual compassion and act in love before they can understand God’s love for them. This includes our enemies, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32–36 NIV11-GK). Which ‘enemy’ can you pray for, and love this week?
Every time I walk past the Grim’s Dyke lake I am reminded of Gilbert’s nobel sacrifice. His example inspires me on a human level, but it also reminds that Jesus made a sacrifice on a very different level. His was a divine sacrifice.  I am the beneficiary. The question for today is – “Who will benefit because of my gratitude?”