Reading Reflection:

Marriage To a Difficult Man, by Elisabeth D. Dodds (Audubon Press, 2004)

My husband was a bit troubled when my friend, Dana, gave me this book along with Journey to Hell for my 30th birthday.  Despite the tricky title, this book recounts the wonderful marriage of Sarah and Jonathan Edwards.  I love reading about the wives of such great men!  Sarah Edwards went through a time of mental anguish (January of 1742) that Dodds delicately recounts in chapter eight.  I’m so glad she did, because it is a picture of God’s magnificent grace that can be very much applied to women today.   Here are some of the changes that came out of it:

Sarah Edwards stopped straining to please God and began to live in the assurance of a salvation she didn’t have to try to deserve.  She stopped pushing herself to be worthy of Edward’s love and from then on had his unreserved admiration.  Before, onlookers had considered her a saint but her husband knew she wasn’t.  Afterward, Edward’s marveled at her “constant sweet peace, calm and serenity of soul”…

…so we still cannot be sure whether she had a religious transport, a nervous breakdown, or whether the two were mingled.  But the evidence is clear that after whatever it was, Sarah picked up life again, and went on as before, but in a new dimension of joy.  Her own words may explain it.  She said it left her with “the riches of full assurance.”  She recalled how, midway in that peculiar week, she awoke and “…was lead to reflect on God’s mercy to me in giving me, for many years, a willingness to die, and after that…in making me willing to live.”

The neurotic martyr is ready to die.  The greater valor is to be willing to live. (108-109)

I don’t need to have suffered a mental break (but my husband may argue it’s already happened on several occasions) to fully relate to Sarah’s reflection.  I find myself suffering all the time from “martyr syndrome.”  I could not imagine what being the wife of Jonathan Edward’s and mother of eleven children would demand of me.  My reading reflection theme seems to be self-righteousness lately, but I believe women can fall into that trap so easily.  We become proud and smarmy in our so-called self-giving.  And when we see its ugliness, it is too much to bear.  But the gospel revives us into a knowledge of the One who truly did give all of Himself, for smarmy ol’ me.  How can I not be filled with joy as I glorify the Giver of all that I need?  Happy Mother’s Day!