Repeatedly being confronted by our own shortcomings has a way of driving us to more urgent dependence upon the Lord. As we continue to look to and lean upon Him, by God’s grace (and to His glory) over time we come to experience a considerable degree of progress and consistency in living and serving as He calls us to.
In her autobiography Climbing, Memories of a Missionary’s Wife, Rosalind Goforth recorded both struggles and victories from her forty-seven years of service with her husband Jonathan in China. One such matter she wrote about had to do with the challenge of more consistently living up to what she was teaching others. Many of us who face the same challenge can gain instruction and encouragement from her example in this regard.
Less than a year and a half after the Goforths arrived in China, their firstborn child, a daughter named Gertrude, died of dysentery on July 24, 1889. She had lived just eleven months. Jonathan left later that same day to take Gertrude’s little body to a town fifty miles away where there was a burying place for foreigners. Rosalind remained behind at the mission station where they were then serving.
The evening after Gertrude’s death, Rosalind lay on a couch “drinking to its dregs the cup of sorrow.” She was lying beside a paper window through which every sound could be heard. Two Chinese women seated themselves outside the window, totally unaware of her near proximity. Rosalind later recorded their conversation which she could not help overhearing:
“At first they talked with much kindness and sympathy of the event that had just taken place. Then began a most amazing and searching dissection (no better word can express it) of my life and character. We had been told the Chinese were keen judges of character. But this was more. It revealed a surprisingly high conception of a Christian missionary! Incidents with the servants, which I had thought trivial, such as a stern rebuke, a hasty word or gesture, were all given their full value. During the process of dissection they did, however, find some good points. One said, ‘She speaks our language well and is a zealous preacher.’ The other admitted, ‘And she does love us. But it’s her impatience, her quick temper!’ Then came what struck me as a blow, ‘If she only would live more as she preaches!’
“At first I was so angered I could have gone out and given them a piece of my mind. But no, I could not, for it was all too true. It was this fact that cut so deeply…As that last hard word was heard, ‘If only she would live more as she preaches,’ I fled to my room. I had heard enough. It was useless to stay in China and simply preach Christ and not live Christ even before our servants.