I mentioned in yesterday’s post a little book by missionary Rosalind Goforth called Climbing, one of my all-time favorites. She and her husband were missionaries to China from1888-1936. She had written his biography, and then by request wrote Climbing about missionary life and furlough from her perspective. I think one thing missionaries would want us to know is that they are not “super-Christians,” but rather people “of like passions” as we are, and this humorous incident in Rosalind’s life illustrates not only that but also the importance of being consistently in God’s Word so it can speak to you.
The following is the most notable incident connected with this habit of memorizing Scripture. I give it, for, judging by the effect it has had upon men and women to whom I have told this story, it touches a vital point in the relation of husband and wife. It certainly brought to my husband and myself a lesson never forgotten.
Our children were all away at school. We were together carrying on aggressive evangelism at a distant out-station. The room given to us was dark and damp, with the usual mud floor. The weather, had turned cold, and there was no place where one could get warm. I caught a cold. It was not a severe one, but enough to make me rather miserable. The third or fourth day, when the meetings were in full swing and my organ was taking an attracting part, I became possessed by a great longing to visit my dearly loved friend, Miss H., living at the Weihuifu Station, some hours run south on the railway. But when I told my husband what I had in mind, he strongly objected and urged against my going. I would not listen, even when he said my going would break up at least the women’s work. But I was determined to go and ordered the cart for the trip to the railway. As the cart started and I saw my husband’s sad, disappointed, white face, I would have stopped, but I wanted to show him I must have my way sometimes!
Oh, what a miserable time I had till my friend’s home in Weihuifu was reached! Miss H. gave one glance at my face and exclaimed: “Whatever is the matter, Mrs. Goforth! Are you ill?”
My only answer was to break down sobbing. Of course I could not tell her WHY. Miss H. insisted on putting me to bed, saying I was ill! She made me promise to remain there until after breakfast.
The following morning, while waiting for breakfast, I opened my Testament and started to memorize, as usual, my three verses. Now it happened I was at that time memorizing the Epistle to the Ephesians and had reached the fifth chapter down to the twenty-first verse. The twenty-second, the first of the three to be memorized that morning, read: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.” I was, to say at the least, startled! Somehow I managed to get this bravely memorized. Then going on to the twenty-third verse, these words faced me: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.”
For a moment a feeling of resentment, even anger, arose. I could not treat this word as a woman once did, putting it aside with the remark: “That is where Paul and I differ.” I believed the Epistle to the Ephesians was inspired, if any portion of Scripture was. How could I dare cut out this one part to which I was unwilling to submit? How I managed to memorize that twenty-third verse I do not know, for all the while a desperate mental struggle was on. Then came the twenty-fourth verse: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
I could not memorize further: my mind was too agitated. “It just comes to this,” I thought, “Am I willing, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, to submit my will (in all but matters of conscience) to my husband?” The struggle was short but intense. At last I cried, “For CHRIST’s sake, I yield!” Throwing a dressing gown about me, I ran to the top of the stairs and called to my friend, “When does the next train go?”
“In about half an hour,” she replied, “but you couldn’t catch it and have your breakfast.”
“Never mind; I’m going to get that train!”
My friend insisted on accompanying me to the station; we ate as we almost ran. With what joy I at last found myself traveling northward!
On reaching my destination, imagine my surprise to find my husband, with a happy twinkle in his eye, standing on the platform!
“Why, Jonathan,” I cried, “how did you know I was coming?”
His reply was simply a happy, “Oh, I knew you would come.”
Later I told my husband frankly all I had passed through. What was the result? From that time, he gave me my way as never before, for does not verse 25 of the chapter quoted go on to say: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” A new realization of the need of yieldedness came to us both, which brought blessed results in our home life.
I don’t think she is saying at the end that her little adventure “paid off,” but rather that God used the incident and their conversation together to open both their eyes to each other’s needs.
Though I am sure it wasn’t funny at the time, I always find this story humorous and I am glad she “told on” herself in her book. But beyond the incident itself, it shows how the Lord can guide and correct us when we are regularly in His Word.
(You can find this book on sale at Amazon and various places, but the text is also online here.)
For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.