3. Mary’s World
Mary’s commitment to do the will of God would
become one of the major factors in salvaging our marriage.
It was the Shirley Temple era and little girls with curly hair were "in." Mary's mother got her wish and gave birth to a blonde, curly-haired baby whom friends would often compare to the famous little movie star. The birth took place in an apartment above a barber shop in the city of brotherly love.
From her earliest years she felt loved and accepted by her mother and her father. Being their first child, and the only child for eleven years as well as the first grandchild on either side, she was considered very special. "Isn't she cute!" people would exclaim. When she talked, everyone listened. They were building into her a strong self-image.
"It wasn't until I entered kindergarten that I discovered that the world didn't revolve around me," she says. "My kindergarten teacher had the audacity to tell me that I talked too much, and she even made me stand in the corner for disrupting the class. (Richard says she must have been a very courageous teacher to take me on like that!) But relating with friends was more important to me than pasting and fingerpainting.
"Two important events occurred in my life at the tender age of six. The first, and most important, was putting my trust in Jesus Christ as Savior from sin. The presence of God's Spirit within me would be the major factor in my life from that day on. The second was moving into the home of my paternal grandmother. My parents wanted to save enough money to build their own little dream home, and this seemed like the logical way to do it: Grandma could take care of me while Mother worked. Although I have not understood it until recent years, that was to have a lasting impact on my life.
"Grandmom was a Christian, but nobody had ever taught her how to apply the principles of Scripture to everyday living. She and my grandfather did not get along at all. They did not communicate with each other, and they slept in different bedrooms. Grandmom actually refused to let me talk to him.
"Her hostility and criticism were not only expressed toward my grandfather, however. There were times when she would get up and leave the room when my maternal grandmother came for a visit. And her extremely critical remarks and actions toward my friends are still vivid in my memory. There were a few of them whom she did not care for at all, and I can remember her making faces and sticking her tongue out at them. I tell you these things, not to belittle her, but to help you understand the emotional baggage that I brought with me into my marriage. It was during those years that I learned criticism as a way of life.
"As a child, summers were my favorite time, because summers meant camp! The one I liked best was Camp Sankanac, sponsored by the Bible Club Movement. One week at Sankanac stands above all others in my memory. A missionary from Africa was speaking on the will of God, and her message affected me powerfully. I had heard messages before on presenting my body to Christ, going wherever He wanted me to go and doing whatever He wanted me to do. But this time it was different. I saw clearly that God desired me to give my will to Him as well, to do what He wanted me to do whether it was what I wanted or not. I made that commitment. Psychologists would probably have labeled me a strong-willed child, but l honestly gave that will to God in the best way I knew how.
"One of my favorite pastimes as a young girl was reading, and missionary biographies were high on my list. The story of John and Betty Stam and their strong dedication to God's will helped to mold my life goals. The verse they had adopted before their martyrdom in China in 1934 became my life verse: '. . . so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it life or by death' (Philippians 1:20b). It seemed to me that one of life's highest callings for me would be to become a missionary or a pastors wife. Those feelings may have been God's way of preparing me for the relationship He had planned for me in years to come."
Mary's commitment to do the will of God would become one of the major factors in salvaging our marriage. We have found that couples who are considering divorce often lack that commitment. Since it seems easier for them to call it quits than to work through the tough problems in their relationship, they take the path of least resistance and head for the lawyer's office. with little consideration for what God might want them to do. Had they ever settled this issue of yielding their wills to Him and letting Him rule their lives, it might have been different.
But the other side of Mary's personality--her critical nature--was to encounter the shyness and poor self-image I brought with me into our marriage. The result was like storm clouds that thunder in the sky when warm and cold fronts meet.
If you have never genuinely yielded your will to Christ, won't you do it now? Then, whenever you face a decision or problem. Pray, "Lord, I want to do Your will. Please show me Your heart's desire."
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