I knew her when I was still young in the faith, in the early 1950s, and she was then in the autumn of her life. She was quiet, relaxed, serene, of deep understanding, and rich wisdom. I felt drawn towards her as one who might impart something to me, I hardly knew what, but in my spirit I sensed I needed to dwell in her presence a while. Looking back now over the last 45 years, I have greater perspective clarify than I possessed in my “salad days”. My renewed spirit was yearning for the Person of the Lord Jesus, the One she had by her side, invisible but real, untouchable but bristling with adventure, romance and life. I know that now, and am glad to recall the memories of those summer days when I stayed in her Guest House in Southbourne, near Bournemouth.
“Come in my dear,” she would say as I lifted my suitcase over the threshold. I saw a glint in her eye, and knew that she could see deep inside me, know my longings better than I knew myself, and know why I had come, ostensibly at the request of a mutual friend, but to her it was the Master bringing one of His young ones to her home for a treat.
“I’ve put you up in GLORY,” she said with an almost inaudible chuckle. “I knew you wouldn’t mind climbing the two flights. Your young legs can manage that.” I went up two-at-a-time to prove her point, and walked past GRACE, LOVE,and KINDNESS, on the first landing before ascending the second flight to the attic room with GLORY on the door. It was not without meaning either. She knew that in the week I was to spend in her home I needed to find something of the Glory of the Lord. But I had my own agenda, which was far more academic, searching in books, lexicons, old volumes which I knew she possessed, and yet at the same time fully aware of the strange something about this aged saint’s life.
Mary Masson always had interesting people to stay, and her dining table was usually laid out for about twelve. Such well-known figures as F.B.Meyer would engrace that table, providing a quiet interchange of spiritual jewels, whilst others listened entranced. Nothing was ever done in a hurry. No one raced about. The spirit of rest was like a continual Sabbath. In her middle years “Mummy” Masson, (as everyone called her) was married to Henry Masson, who ran Slavanka, the Christian Conference Centre in Southbourne. But when I knew her she had been widowed a number of years. She was unable to cater for her guests by herself, but had Laura and Linda, two winsome Christian ladies to help. She spent most of her time talking to the Lord, and reaching out quietly to the needs of those the Lord sent.
I shall never forget that week. The sun was out most of the time, so I would sit in the garden and read my Bible with other helpful books by my side, or rest on the bed after lunch, to listen to the brass band playing a short way off in Fisherman’s Walk, and then sit attentively over supper to drink in the wisdom of spiritual conversation from other guests. All these things remain like blissful memories, but one remains above all others. During the day “Mummy” would find me somewhere, wherever I was, and I knew instinctively it was for a God-given purpose. She never seemed to do anything apart from the leading of the Lord. (Why can’t I be like that, I used to think.) I would stop whatever I was doing and wait to hear what she had to say.
“Are you up in glory, Arthur?”
“Yes,” I would answer, whilst those beady eyes watched me like a hawk, and while she just nodded her old head, and her face showed that amazing intuitive knowledge of my needs.
“Then you must keep your feet on the ground. Learn to walk with Him down here, my dear.”
At such times she would say little more, but always leave me with something to ponder for the rest of the day. In retrospect, I am still pondering it now. She would amble off to find someone else, and I would find the aroma of a “presence” left with me.Now I know what it was, WHO it was, but at that stage in my life it was just a fragrance that would remain.
Why am I writing these things? Have you ever known someone like Mary Masson? Someone whom you remember more because of the Lord Jesus in them and with them than for themselves? Someone who sheds that sweet savour of His presence wherever they go? Mary Masson had suffered a lot in her life, but it’s only effect was to draw her closer to the Lord she loved, in a manner I have seen in few other saints of God.
I saw her again some years later. By then the Guest House had been sold, and she was very old and infirm. Once again, it was summer, and the sun shone warmly at Southbourne. I commented on the beauty of the sea. She looked at me with that same twinkle in her eye.
“I remember telling the Lord the same thing some years ago. He put a portion of a verse into my mind, ‘This is not your rest, it is polluted.’ Like Abraham, I’m looking for another country and the joy of seeing the Lord’s face.”
She couldn’t entertain me for more than about fifteen minutes before dragging her aged body upstairs for a rest. I was still waiting in the hallway with Laura. I watched as she climbed and I heard her say in a cracked but clear voice,
“How long 0 Lord is Thy chariot in coming?”
As she said it she was looking up, as though to see the Lord before her face. Nothing else mattered, neither home nor material things, nor the world and its people, just the Lord Himself. She was entirely wrapped up in Him. Shortly after this I was to learn that her “chariot” had come. It left no sadness in me, nothing but the lasting freshness of Divine Life and the beauty of Jesus. I knew she had found her everlasting rest. I also knew that I was not ready for it myself. I didn’t carry around with me that same serenity of spirit, that same evidence of “walking with the Lord” that she possessed.
Much water has flowed under the bridge of time since then. Life has been turbulent, uncertain, unpredictable, but throughout the last 32 years of married life something of that serenity has been gradually granted to us both. Like Mary Masson we have had our eras of calm followed by times of suffering, with both of us having been through the ravages of a nervous breakdown, my wife’s being more severe than mine. Loss of jobs as a result of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus has catapulted us into foreign parts whilst raising a family of four children, to places where climatic conditions have played havoc with our health. And yet we are still alive, and have a grown-up family bringing us much joy. And they are now beginning to go through the birth pangs we have experienced.
What do I mean by these ‘birth pangs’? Just one thing – to know, to recognise, to respond to, and to deeply love the Lord Jesus for Himself, above everything else and everybody else in the world, to have so to speak, the Lord’s own image progressively born within us. Death no longer has any sway with us, any more than it did with Mary Masson. Like her we are daily waiting for His “chariot” to come, but always with the hope of being “changed” before death comes. But we are aware that many are still finding the day of His return too awesome to handle. Let me quote A.W.Tozer here, because he had a way of putting things that few have been able to improve upon.
The longing to see Christ that burned in the breasts of those first Christians seems to have burned itself out. All we have left are the ashes. It is precisely the ‘yearning’ and the ‘fainting’ for the return of Christ that has distinguished the personal hope from the theological one. Mere acquaintance with correct doctrine is a poor substitute for Christ, and familiarity with New Testament eschatology will never take the place of a love-inflamed desire to look on His face.
If the tender yearning is gone from the advent hope today, there must be reasons for it. One is simply that popular fundamentalist theology has emphasised the UTILITY of the cross rather than the BEAUTY of the One who died on it.
The saved man’s relation to Christ has been made CONTRACTUAL rather than PERSONAL.
The WORK of Christ has been stressed until it has eclipsed the PERSON of Christ.
SUBSTITUTION has been allowed to supersede IDENTIFICATION.
What He DID for me seems to be more important than what He IS to me.
Redemption is seen as an across-the-counter transaction which we ‘accept’, and the whole thing lacks emotional content. We must love someone very much to stay awake and long for his coming, and that may explain the absence of power in the advent hope even among those who still believe in it.
History reveals that times of suffering for the Church have also been times of looking upward. Tribulation has always sobered God’s people and encouraged them to look for and yearn after the return of their Lord. Our present preoccupation with this world may be a warning of bitter days to come. God will wean us from the earth some way – the easy way if possible, the hard way if necessary. It is up to us.
The life of King David is vividly portrayed in the Old Testament. All his warts and bumps are shown in dramatic relief as well as his more ‘acceptable’ religious aspirations. But through all that he suffered, he found a growing love for his Lord, and the Psalms he wrote are a rich heritage for us all as we pass through the shadow lands of this life.
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to contemplate in His Temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
“For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand [elsewhere]. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10)
And the words of Moses in Psalm 90:16-17 –
“Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory upon their children, and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.”
And Jeremiah (9:23-24)
“Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches, but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.”
The Apostle Paul referred to “all those who LOVE HIS APPEARING.” (2 Timothy 4:8) It is heart-searching indeed to read such words, and ask whether we truly long to see the Lord, to know that HE has cast our sins away as far as the east is from the west and to remember them no more, who loves us with an everlasting love, whose compassions fail not, but are new every morning, who cares for us far more than many sparrows, and who desires for us to sit with Him in His Kingdom, to recline at table with His Ancients, and to enjoy His presence and company. Are these our longings, or do we still harbour a fear of His majesty, His glory, His greatness, His judgments, and His wrath? Even though John the Apostle declared“perfect love casts out [all such] fear”?
Many of our hymn writers have, over the centuries, shown us the way into the holy places, where we can learn the sweetness, the gentleness, the ‘love that will not let me go’ of the Lord. To thumb through the sections of some of our hymn books is to share many precious experiences of those who have gone on before, those who have waited for their chariots to come. A while back I was pleased to find the music of an old song written by Frank Stanton, one that was popular with our black brothers and sisters in earlier days. I have quoted it as the title of this P.T. “Just a wearyin‘ for you.” As an expression of human love, it carries with it the yearning of the human heart, betraying a sweetness and beauty that exactly fits the sentiments referred to above about the Lord.
Just a wearyin‘ for you,
All the time a-feelin‘ blue,
Wishin‘ for you, wond’rin‘ when you’ll be comin‘ home again,
Restless, don’t know what to do,
Just a wearyin‘ for you.
Mornin‘ comes, the birds awake,
Used to sing so for your sake,
But there’s sadness in the notes, that come trillin‘ from their throats,
Seem to feel your absence, too,
Just a wearyin‘ for you.
Evenin‘ comes, I miss you more,
When the dark glooms round the door,
Seems just like you oughter be, there to open it for me.
Latch goes tinklin‘, thrills me through,
Sets me wearyin‘ for you.
But then I found in “Streams in the Desert” that someone had written new words to this song. They use the same sentiment, but apply it to the Lord. –
Just a wearying for You,
Jesus, Lord, Beloved and True,
Wishing for You, wond’ring when You’ll be coming back again,
Under all I say or do,
Just a wearying for You.
Some glad day, all watching past,
You will come for me at last,
Then I’ll see You, hear Your voice, Be with You, with You rejoice,
How the sweet hope thrills me through,
Sets me wearying for You.
It remains for me to ask, are you wearying for Jesus’ return? Does the sweetness of the Lord fill your soul with a hunger, a thirst for being with Him, to “see His lovely face, some bright golden morning, when the clouds have rifted, and the shades have flown”? Does the wonder of His very being fill your soul, and transcend every earthly desire?
“Even so, come Lord Jesus”