Saturday, June 2, 2018

"Come Ye Needy One and All"

Many people who knew my mother view her as a hero of faith. Heroes are usually formed in the fire of great trial, the crucible of hardship. As I continue sharing the story of my mother's life (as told by her), you'll see from this particular story that the death of her high school sweetheart (and first husband, Paul) began to shape the faith of a woman many people admire.

We continue with her story.....
"After that car accident in April, life seemed rather heavy and I had just said to Paul while getting ready for bed on a Sunday night early in July—we were talking back and forth about the car accident, and I said: "Well, honey, I feel that I can go through anything as long as I have you to go through it with me. If you were taken from me, I'd hibernate the rest of my life." 

Paul turned to me and said in surprise, "Honey, I'm disappointed. I wish your faith in God would be strong enough that you could accept whatever happens as God's will for your life. Look at my parents. No two people loved each other more than they, yet when my father died, Mother accepted it as God's will and went steadfastly on her way."
The next day, Monday, July 7, I was hanging up my laundry on the clothesline outside, and thinking just how happy I was...I did love my life. I had a lovely son, and I was happy being the wife of Paul Crider. And then my mother and a neighbor lady came knocking on my front door, both looking very grave. They told me that there had been an accident on the job where Paul was working—building a silo in New Oxford. He had fallen from a height of about 40 feet and he was seriously injured. They told me he was in a coma, in the Hanover Hospital, and if I wanted to see Paul alive, I should come quickly with them to the hospital. Well, I went, I did get to see him alive, but he never regained consciousness. He died four days later on July 11, 1947.

After Paul died, and I remembered the conversation that had taken place so close to his death; it felt like somehow God was in it—He had prepared my heart, gone before and arranged that Paul would give me this message in the calm and quite of home. "Have faith in God, that no matter what happens, you will know it is God's will for your life." It was almost as though it was a parting note from Paul.

My heart is deeply moved when I realize the graciousness and love of God that He had gone before and provided for something He knew I would greatly need. But that did not erase the pain, the heartbreak, the disappointment that followed. I didn't want to live without Paul. Life was empty—nothing to live for. Here I was, a young widow with a 7-month old baby, and a face that had been permanently rearranged from the automobile accident.

What was I going to do? I remember I had $400.00 in the bank...that's how much we had saved from Paul's work so far.

That August, I told my mother I wasn't going to go to our annual Roxbury Camp Meeting (a local camp meeting within our denomination). I didn't want to face people. I wanted to hibernate. Her response was firm: "Bertha, you can't stay home...We won't allow that." So I went, but I stayed in our cabin; I didn't attend any of the services. But I could hear all the preacher's messages because our cabin was on the front row and there were outside loudspeakers.

That week that I spent there at the cabin, I was seeking God with all my heart. I was praying that Dougie and I could die, but there was still that fear—the fear of meeting God if I wasn't ready. As a result, I began seeking God as I had never done before—confessing out everything I felt God may not be pleased with in my life.

It was on the evening of August 10, 1947 (just four weeks after Paul's death) that I presented myself to God and asked Him to fill my empty shell. The biggest and hardest thing for me to confess was jealousy. I had jealousy in my heart towards a certain person and I wanted to be rid of it. I knew it was standing in my way.

That person of whom I was jealous just happened to be there at the meeting. So I went and told her. She laughed and said she had something like that too that bothered her—she understood what I was talking about.

Then I went to the altar. I knelt down, my arms crossed and my head down.

They asked me why I was there.

It looked like an impossible monster but I confessed everything until I felt completely emptied. I wanted to die and no price was too great. I "cleaned house"—my physical body even felt empty, as if it were only a shell. There's a song—"Bring your empty earthen vessels, cleansed through Jesus' precious blood, come ye needy one and all".

That was me. I came to God in a way that I had never done before. I was as clean and empty of self as I knew how. I felt a need to be filled, now that I was empty.

They prayed for me for a time. Then they took hold of both my wrists that were on the altar, and lifted my arms so that my face was lifted up. After a while, they asked, "How is it now, Bertha?"

I was just so full—I began weeping—and I said, "I'm full!" in a breathless voice.

God so surprised me and filled my shell with an overflowing love, joy, peace, contentment, and security that I never knew existed. It was a gift because all I was seeking for was an assurance that I was ready to meet God. I had wanted to die; I didn't want to live. I had only wanted to be able to ask God—please take my son and me to heaven.

But a whole new life opened up to me. Now I no longer wanted to die. I wanted to live. There seemed to be so much to live for. God in His graciousness began opening doors of service to me that made my life rich and fulfilling. I enjoyed my dear little son."

Bertha and her son Doug.