One Woman Who Made The Better Choice

IMG_0974The Bible speaks of Mary, one woman who made the better choice, that of listening to Jesus as He spoke inviting humans to commune with the heavenlies; Mary the sister of the man named Lazarus who was once dead and was made alive and who now opted to stay in one corner reminiscing his back-from-death experience; Mary the sister of the woman named Martha who was  in panic because the Master of the whole universe came to their home and she kept nipping at that panic by busying herself with house matters and kitchen charities, in an apparent choice to please Jesus, and in panic because no one offered to help with the kitchen.

Why was everyone too busy sitting there, and not too busy helping me? She probably thought. Well, if I were back from the dead, like Lazarus, perhaps I would gather a group of men and women curious and uncurious to share with them my joy of being alive again; you bet I would be the best resource speaker in any meeting including alumni homecomings. For I have a story. I could not tell you firsthand what it means to be putrified, to become great pounds of decaying flesh fancied and feasted over by maggots; but I could tell you firsthand how Hades looks like. I was there.

If I were the cook, like Martha, I would ask a neighbor to come and help me with the serving, promising free food and a loan if needed. For these were hard times and a food for the stomach and loan charity to last a few days would be my humanly best demonstration to show what Jesus had made of me.

Mary’s choice however was better; it earned the Master’s praise. Mind you, in these days when legs are weak and knees squeak and arms are brittle, I wouldn’t complain of being overworked. That is a choice too and a blessing in some ways. But it is best to be like Mary.

Come to the 21st century and hear the story of one woman whose name was not Mary. Under the worst of circumstances, she also made the better choice. If you are looking for relevance, her story is relevant, one meant for our times, difficult times, recession times. She was then a sixteen year old, working to make ends meet to support family. By that, I mean she and her mother. Her father, a member of the Lord’s church too, just died, apparently a suicide. She was the only child of a marriage that never lasted long, an unschooled teenager taught by a great schooled preacher. Because her father had thought of himself as a hopeless case, she chose to hope that things for her and her mother would be better. The Lord was their hope.

And so for them to survive in those hard times, she worked as chamber maid in one house and a janitor in a dormitory for ladies at other times. She liked the ladies in the dorm because they were kind to her, they gave her extras, and the  hand-me-downs they passed on to her still looked good. And she chose to be content.

And as I listened to her story retold by the preacher son who apparently loves her so much, I could not cease to admire this woman. A fire incident tested her, like the fires too that would test our mettle and brittle. It was a fire that came from nowhere, there was no arsonist to point the fingers to, and it was consuming the whole dormitory building. Since she was a soul whom life’s barrenness had molded, in a way she knew what to do under the circumstances—she gathered all the blankets and sheets, tied them on each end, threw it below, wound the other end around a bunk bed leg for support, and aided the ladies in their escape below. She made sure that everyone had made a safe landing on the pavement. The last in the line, she finally clung to the sheets, and slowly lowered herself down.  Well, from a building three storeys high, she did not make a landing either safe or soft.  The sheets broke, and she fell with a great thud on concrete.

The people they called on 911 hurried her to a hospital. She woke up with great pain. She thought she had broken her back.

Indeed she had. So for the next eighteen months she was there, her body wrapped in a cast. Christians who knew of her heroic act gave her the support she needed. Mothers of daughters whom she had saved from the fire saw to it that she never missed a thing. She bubbled with the joy of being alive, albeit in painful circumstances. She desired and prayed for her life to go back to normal.

And for the next eighteen months there too was one other source of inspiration, one young man seventeen years old who kept visiting her, bringing food and encouragement and smiles. She liked much the rose he would place in her hand each day of his visits. She smiled and laughed at his antics.

They became the best of friends. Yea, more than friends. He was with her in the hospital when the cast wrapped around her body was finally removed.  When it was discovered that the cast never helped stabilize her backbone, he was with her encouraging her to undergo an operation which she thought was still on its experimental stage–getting one of her shinbones and attaching it to her backbone to strengthen it.

On her wedding day she was a fragile bride, pretty, but as fragile as could be. Both were in their early twenties. The doctors told her that getting pregnant would put her under too much risk. They agreed and made a vow to each other that they would forever remain like that–a couple who desired a child but could not run the risk of having it.

But she became pregnant, and it was unplanned, and she was forty years old.  In the language of her preacher son who told me this story, it was accidental. What would she do? She decided to carry it on to its term. Terminating the pregnancy was out question. They were Christians. They had something the doctors never thought they had: A hope in a great God who would see them through even during the worst and the impossible of times.

And so she, a woman of fragile body, whose body’s support base was a fragile shinbone, gave birth. It was not just one; it was twins.

The woman was probably made of great stuff. When her husband died, she raised her twins alone.  She found odd jobs that offered little money, and oftentimes her twin boys would subsist on whatever she had made out of long days of searching for what the Lord held in store.

She decided to move from the southern side of her state to the northern side of it, where she heard of a great church who had a great preacher, not handsome, whose ways and dressing were quite unconventional–red suits with white shoes to boot. But his unconventionalities, his down to earth style of preaching and illustrations, like picking up a little black girl and putting her on the pulpit to picture to them God’s great love for the downtrodden, the outcast, the humbled, the humiliated, those who had less, had attracted many. At one time this church had a membership of seven thousand— Hispanic, Asians, Caucasians, black, brown, yellow, white, men and women from the high and mighty to the low and the humble.

The lady moved her family because she thought a church like that probably was into something more noble and sublime, where the black, the yellow, the brown and the white could walk, laugh and eat together in the spirit of love and in celebration of the lovingkindness of the great Master of the universe who died for all. It was a church that provided opportunities for growth. The preacher who told me this story grew up in that loving church, and loved that church and that church’s unconventional preacher who was not handsome.

It was a decision she had not regretted.  In later years she moved from a house she did not own to a retirement home that Christians had given her the opportunity to own. Her two sons became preachers, one in the largest church of Christ in the state of Texas, the other in what used to be the largest congregation in the state of Tennessee. Her granddaughters became missionaries, and her grandsons preachers.

Wish you had a mom like that, who never allowed hopelessness and depression and life’s barrenness that had consumed her father and made him take his own life to consume her and take her own life. She was in the business of living and saving. She thrived in accidentals and impossibles because she had put her trust in a God so powerful. Even if she never understood all.  When she tried to save the girls from the fires of a burning building, she probably never thought that her descendants someday would also be in the business of saving souls from the fires of hell.

Her love for the Lord is surely a good thing that her descendants have the fortune to copy, and proclaim to others too. Pray for moms like her.  If you cannot grow one in your congregation, then be one. Ladies, it is a challenge to you.

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