Thursday, August 11, 2011

Catherine Marshall's Heart For God, Vol. 1

Catherine Marshall Lesourd
1914 - 1983

We are studying Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk (1986), published three years after Catherine's death. A collaborative effort between Catherine's second husband Len Lesourd, and her longtime friend and editor, Elizabeth Sherrill, the text includes selected entries from a 23-year span of Catherine's journal keeping. The years cover her marriage to Len in 1959 when she was 44, up until her death in 1983, when she was 68. The introduction to my Catherine Marshall series can be found here.

As we delve into Catherine's heart and mind through her journal entries, I'll start with a piece of text each time. Then I'll discuss what we can glean from it, and how we can apply it to our own walks with Jesus.

In the book's foreword, Catherine Marshall's friend and editor, Elizabeth Sherrill, writes:

Shortly after their marriage in 1959....a moving van delivered Catherine's possessions to their first home. Len watched in husbandly amusement as Catherine hovered over one particular carton, clearly attaching more value to it than to the clothes, dishes, and pieces of furniture that arrived along with it. 

"My journals," Catherine explained. 

When Len still looked blank, she drew from the box a dark green volume, four inches by seven, with "Year Book 1934" stamped on the front. Catherine had filled the book with reactions to campus life that sophomore year at Agnes Scott College in Georgia. Three more green journals in the box covered the years through 1937. 

In growing astonishment, Len helped Catherine store the volumes on a shelf. What discipline and devotion these thousands of pages represented! Where would a person find the time? 

Len soon found out. Early in the morning, Catherine would take from the dresser a bright red hardcover Daily Reminder. No amount of fatigue from the previous day spent coralling three small stepchildren, no pleas from a sleepy husband, could keep her from this daily appointment-in-waiting with God. 

When Catherine finally allowed Len to read some current entries, he understood her commitment to the discipline. These were more than simply prayer records, more even than the joyful recording of answers. The act of writing itself was part of Catherine's relationship with God; it helped define her needs, focus her prayers, act out her trust. 

There was a five-year dairy for 1938-42, recording Catherine's soul-searching as she met and eventually married Peter Marshall. Journals of various shapes and colors detailed her years as Peter's wife: the birth of their son, her own serious illness, the loss of her young husband. As a widow in the 1950's, Catherine entered her spiritual questing in a succession of spiral-bound notebooks.  (Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk,1986, page xii)

What a telling piece of text! Powerful.

We learn that Catherine placed high value on her relationship with God, and not on the things of this world, like clothes, dishes, furniture. How many women, when moving, worry more about their journals than their material possessions?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Next we learn of Catherine's spiritual discipline. Spending time with the Lord took precedence over everything. 
"No amount of fatigue from the previous day spent coralling three small stepchildren, no pleas from a sleepy husband, could keep her from this daily appointment-in-waiting with God."

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
As we cover Catherine's journal entries, you'll see how the second commandment plays out in her life. Her love for God leads her to love others better, with His love. She desired to love even the unlovable.

 The act of writing itself was part of Catherine's relationship with God; it helped define her needs, focus her prayers, act out her trust.  

I can sure relate to this. Writing is part of my relationship with God. I start with an idea and He fleshes it out as I type. By the time I get to the end of a post, what God wants from me is clearer. Many of my posts are repeat ideas, written because He thought I needed a reminder.

What makes you feel close to God? Is it singing or listening to music? Or talking it out with someone? Is it going to a quiet place and just listening? Whatever you need to feel close to God, do it. Discover what it is and make time for it.

Catherine was a growing Christian, never content to rest on the assurance of her salvation. She wanted more, and as she sought it, she fell in love with Jesus. Once she was in love, she couldn't stop pursuing Him through her love affair with Scripture. Just typing this brings tears to my eyes. There is so much more to the Christian life than salvation. Yet, so few of us seek it. And why? Why do we fill our lives with so much fluff, and so little Christ?

Her husband writes in the introduction:
"What shines through Catherine's words is that Christian growth and adventuring never stop. The search for more of the truth is endlessly absorbing: the promises God holds out are worthy of every moment of struggle, the "walk" never arrives at some static, fixed point, but leads on into ever deeper intimacy with God." Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk, 1986, page xxvi

What I want from this series more than anything, is for us to pursue Jesus like Catherine did. Not through writing, if that isn't your way. But through something unique between you and God. Find that something.  And fall in love.

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