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What I Learned from Mary

Mary was eighty years old when I met her, and she was an unlikely volunteer for planting a church.  Except, she lived on the main street of the town where we were going to plant the church.  She was a member of the sponsoring church and was intrigued by these young people who wanted to do something special in her town.

Mary possessed that northern blend of directness and affection.  She had seen too much to suffer fools, and she wasn’t going to waste anytime trying to charm people.  To a young, southern pastor, she was pretty intimidating.  In one of my first visits to her home she let me know that her first impressions of me, sitting up on the platform in front of the church, waiting to lead worship were not favorable.  But, she became deeply committed to this new work, enduring metal folding chairs set up in a school cafeteria.   Once, when I was speaking on prayer I suggested that we should vary our prayers, to not get in a rut praying the same thing over and over.  “We shouldn’t pray the same thing everyday?”  Mary asked.  “Not if you want to keep it fresh,”  I replied.  “Well, I guess I’ll have to stop praying for you each morning, Mark.”  Busted.

My last visit to Mary’s home before she passed away at ninety-four was at Easter.  I took my little girl, Molly, because I wanted her to know this wonderful person.  I’ll never forget what Mary shared with us as we sat around her kitchen table.  It wasn’t a casual thought that had just occurred to her.  It was something that she had thought about a lot.

“Mark, what is hard for me to think about is that when Jesus prayed in the Garden, he couldn’t get anyone to pray with him.  He didn’t have a friend.  I wish that I could have been his friend in those moments.”

There was pain in her voice as she imagined Jesus’ loneliness. 

What a thought.  The one who had been a “friend to sinners,” now had no friends when it really counted.  He had to walk this path alone.

Mary’s insight made me realize the dedication of Jesus to go it alone.  He did it so that we could forever enjoy the friendship of  God, so that we would never have to be in a garden of struggle all alone.

What a friend.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Little children and those become like children in their aged perception often startle me with their spiritual depth. Good Easter story.