Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Mary Wilson - P. A. Black
With tear-glistened cheeks, her face inclined heavenward, and her countenance radiant with gratitude and delight, the woman — a slightly rotund, grandmotherly figure — pours out her thanksgiving, adoration, and worship to her heavenly Lord who has done so much for her. And with colloquial eloquence she lays out before the Lord the treasures of a grateful heart, every sentence overflowing with loving intensity from a soul on fire.
The occasion is a customary and participatory segment of the communion service held each Sunday morning in her home church in Aberdeen, Scotland. She is in her 70s. Mary Wilson, widowed many years before, became a Christian through personal faith in Christ when she was 46 years of age, and always regrets that it took her so long. From that time on, she has never ceased to wonder at the merciful love and grace of God towards her. “Sister Wilson” as we usually called her, was indeed grateful for every blessing she received. Not only was she a grateful receiver of God’s blessings, but she was a great giver! Now, she didn’t parade that as a fact, for deep humility was also one of her distinctive characteristics. She believed in “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”— that is, doing deeds of kindness in Jesus’ name while keeping things anonymous, wherever possible.
Mary was a woman of very humble means, living in a rented tenement garret (an attic apartment) above a busy downtown street, with no bathroom or inside toilet. Well, there was a flush toilet, but to get to it she had to go down three or four stories to the outhouse in the back yard. She worked two early morning cleaning jobs to supplement her old age pension, and that better enabled her to contribute in practical ways to Christian ministry and to the needs of others.
Rising at about 5 o’clock each weekday morning, she headed out — journeying on foot and by bus — to clean an office, then make her way to the Christian bookstore and clean it ready for opening time. Mary Wilson provided and faithfully set up the communion emblems each Sunday morning, and donated a beautiful spray of flowers for the sanctuary every week, year after year.
Sunday afternoon would find her at the Sherratt Court Mission, serving up soup and sandwiches to the homeless and down-and-out, for whom she had great compassion. Evening usually found her in church at the Gospel Service. She had a neighbour of about 10 years her senior, who was confined to her attic room. Mary ensured she had groceries and meals, and helped bathe her.
She never forgot that it was the love of Jesus who lifted her. I didn’t know much about her pre-conversion life, but in her thanksgiving in the communion service she often reflected in her Aberdonian brogue: “Father, I caunna’ thaunk ye enough fur’ a’ yer mercy and love t’ards us. Phaur kens whaur I widha’ been if Jesus hadna’ lifted me!”
Mary Wilson gave largely — “bigly” — out of the little she had, and was kindred to the widow Jesus commended in Mark 12:42-44, whom He observed putting two small copper coins into the Temple treasury. The Master declared that compared to others participating in the offering, “. . . this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
She is also in the company of Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister, who freely poured out her costly perfume on our Lord and wiped his feet with her hair in a lavish, yet humble, expression of gratitude and love (John 12:3).
As I reflect today on my journey through Lent my thoughts drift back four decades to those times I sneaked a peek at this dear saint of God, and marvelled again at her pouring out the sweet, pure perfume of loving adoration to the One who loved her and gave Himself for her.
Her humility was Christlike, and her love sacrificial.
I am inspired and moved.
Contempt sizzles on the fires of my burning pride.
And yet I journey on towards Calvary.
And the Cross.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer, and writes a weekly column in The Watford Guide-Advocate. He is the author of "Parables from the Pond"
(Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X).
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