|Misery stole me at my birth
And cast me helpless on the wild.|
The words of this hymn express my condition from my first advent into the world. My mother had overworked before I was born; and, as a result, I suffered bodily affliction from infancy. I was scarely two years old when I began having spasms. My eyes would roll back in my head, I would froth at the mouth, the tendons of my jaws would draw, causing me to bite my cheeks until the blood ran from my mouth, and I would become unconscious. Although I would remain unconscious for only a short time, yet while I lay in that condition I seemed as one dead. Upon regaining consciousness, I seemed dazed all the rest of that day; and not until I had had a night's sleep, did I have a clear perception of what was going on around me. Sometimes two or three days would pass before I was fully restored.
I hada number of these spansm when I was too young to know anything about them. The first one of which I remember, I begain to turn blind and did not know what was the matter; but I soon learned the nature of my affliction. I had to be very careful what I did. If I exposed myself to the direct rays of the sun or even looked straight at the sun, I was likely to have a spasm; if I drank sweet milk it was likely to have the same result.
When I quit school at the age of ten years and had nothing to occupy my mind, my thoughts centered on my suffering and the frequency of my spasms seemed to increase. After having a spasm my mind was greatly afflicted with melancholy and depression. I dreaded the recurrence of the fits, and looked forward to their coming with such abhorrence that often the fear of having a spasm would bring on the very thing I dreaded.
From the time I can first recollect, most of my life was spent in sadness and disappointment. It seemed as if my whole being were a mass of suffering and affliction. The doctor said there was nothing sound about me but my lungs. Most of my time I appeared to be nothing but a voice. So far as I remember, not one day of that period of my life was passed without pain and suffering. My high temper, of course, added mental suffering to the physical.
Many times I wondered why I could not die. My suffering was greatly increased by melancholy and mental depression. I often sat beside my mother and cried, |Mother, why can't I die? Why did I not die when I was a child? I am a trial to myself and to all around me.| Mother would say, |Mary, God has a bright design in all this. We do not know the reason why you are so afflicted, but we will know sometime.| With such comforting words she many times soothed my troubled spirit. God blessed me with a dear Christian mother. Her gentle, patient life -- so loving and Christlike -- stamped upon my soul in early childhood the ideal of real Christian character. I had before me constantly an example of what I ought to be. As I look back at those days, my association with my mother seems to have been the only bright spot in my early life.
At six years of age I began to have dyspepsia, and as a result, could eat but very little food without suffering. Up to this time and later, I could walk a mile or more; but was liable at any time to have a fit. When about twelve or thirteen years of age, other afflictions set in, such as spinal and female trouble.
In my fifteenth year I became a helpless invalid, and lay in bed for five months at one time. When I first became helpless, I thought I was dying. I knew if I went into eternity as I then was I would be lost, and suffered terrible mental anguish. My dear mother came to my bedside with comforting words: |Mary, put your trust in the Lord.| I could move neither hand nor foot but could only say, |Mother, I am trying to,| knowing at the same time that I was not capable of meeting the conditions -- repentance, etc., I decided that I would not tell Mother nor any one else that I felt that I was lost, even if I died in that condition; but God in his mercy saw fit to lengthen out my life.
Viewed from the standpoint of mature life, those early years remind me of the experience of the Israel-ites when they came to Marah, where the waters were bitter, and where Moses put something into the bitter waters to make them sweet. In my unsaved condition, I was at Marah; but when the Lord saved my soul, he put something into the bitter stream of my life that made it sweet, and I can truly say, |My December is as pleasant as May: my summer lasts all the year.| Yes, I can now obey God's Word: |Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; and in everything give thanks| (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16). Oh, what a wonderful change God wrought! It is all through grace divine; for the promise is, |All things work together for good to them that love God.|