This is just a glimpse of the story of the man, William Wilberforce, who fought against slavery in England – a fight that took his entire political career, and much of his health and wellness.
He was such a brave man – to go against so many who were for slavery when it was such an acceptable, totally normal evil that had been absorbed into their society. And to stand the silence of those who in their hearts were against it, but would never dare speak publicly against it. Knowing it would be the cross of his life to bear, he did it anyway.
The image above is from the sweet movie “Amazing Grace 2006.” It’s a good synopsis of his political and personal life, with a focus on the kind of wife he had when he endured being an abolitionist.
The movie takes you through the passion of his youth,
the fever to want to change the world,
the anger that so many kept silent,
the recurring bouts of serious illness,
the feeling chosen for this task,
the believing he was failing… even failing God in fulfilling his task.
Wilberforce had a passion for his mission that caused him to fight for 20 years before seeing it ever come to fruition! He saw the abolitionist movement birth, then grow brighter like a flame… but then in the face of his country at war, he watched it’s supporters fall away, hide themselves in the hills, and refuse to support him publicly in the face of being labeled seditious. Close friends like William Pitt, the man who became Prime Minister at the age of 24, who encouraged him to consider his participation in the Abolitionist movement as a work of God, weren’t able to openly support him any longer.
Isolation fell way to dejection, which overtime, fell way to despair. His illness, caused by the immense stress of his mission, took over his mind and his body.
His friends and the people of his upper class were concerned that he was killing himself over his passion and mission. They also didn’t understand his fervor for God – as evangelicals were ridiculed and criticized harshly in those times, and distrusted as “radicals,” by his Tory party. The movie portrays his activities fairly accurately, based upon his diary entries.
He had so much opposition, that the great and renowned John Wesley, at the age of 87, wrote to him and said, “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you. . . .” .
Enter his future wife, Barbara Spooner, a beautiful, young, 20 year old (William was 37), who helped reignite his fire to change things. To remind him of his worth. To help him fight again, the good fight he almost gave up. They had the same moral standings, Evangelical faith (when most were still of the Church of England), and vision for society, and she undoubtedly appreciated what he had already accomplished in his political career.
He fell in love with her, and proposed only 8 days after meeting her.
They married after a short, 1-month courtship, and then had 6 children in 10 years! It is said that William relished being a father and having the joy of a family. If anything, having his wife and children gave him more energy and passion to continue on in his mission – because it renewed his purpose to make the world (as much as he could) a better place.
In the 2006 movie, his wife’s role of drawing him out of depression and despair, nursing him while he was sick, and inspiring him to live without powerful (and dangerous) opiates, is one of the most beautiful facets of the entire movie! Each time I’ve watched it, I’ve been so encouraged to renew my efforts in helping my own husband attain his goals and aspirations.
She believed in him when he needed it the most. When no one seemed to be able to encourage him to continue, her faith in him somehow did. It’s a remarkable thing to me, the power that a wife can have in helping her husband through rough patches in life.
I know I don’t often talk about my own personal struggle as a police wife, in part because it’s just such a public life and anything I say reflects back onto him – for good or for worse. These past years have been very hard for everyone in policing – their children, their families, but especially the officers themselves. Many have quit or chosen to retire early. And who can blame them?
There were times when it was extremely difficult to see my husband serve what I thought, was such an undeserving society, and then I would be humbled by seeing how so many would pour out their love and support in letters to their police. I had to take pictures of the many letters I ended up collecting one year for the officers at my husband’s sub, so that I could reread them when I was tempted to feel like he was fighting alone.
I know I’m selfish, but it’s hard to want to give my husband to people who don’t know him like I do, who don’t understand the incredible man they have, so selflessly serving them day in and day out.
Back when all the repeated officer deaths and shootings were taking place more frequently, I had a crisis-like moment where I had to make a choice to continue supporting him anyway (knowing he could be murdered), or to try to get him to do something else much safer. Obviously my feelings and my “heart” wanted to stop supporting him in his mission and purpose. It was very painful to watch him go through the emotions and difficulty he went through during those years, when officers were painted in the worst light possible, and then murdered for crimes they never committed. It was hard to try to still believe that it was a cause worth fighting for. It’s painful to support someone and love them so much, all while understanding that their purpose involved their possible death!
But his purpose was more than us, and more than even our kids having the certainty of a father! Accepting this was difficult to say the least.
Through lots of time with God and periodically asking mentors for prayers for peace during that time, I came to a place of accepting his calling as being something truly sacred. He was, to put it bluntly, willing to die for the love of serving our city, because what he was doing – fulfilling a Romans 13 calling – represented more to him than even his own life.
What is your husband passionate about? Is there anything he lights up when talking about? Are you trying to support and encourage him, to listen and enjoy his thoughts on the subject? If you don’t know what it is that your husband cares deeply about, why don’t you find out?
Maybe the things he used to feel passionate about, he’s lost hope in ever seeing come to fruition, like Wilberforce almost did. Maybe his dreams and aspirations have withered away and have left him feeling empty inside. I think it’s normal for a man who isn’t supported in this amazing way that a wife is able to do, to fall into depression or even apathy. Life is so difficult, but I believe it’s even harder for people who have strong convictions and a sense of purpose – they’re more prone (I think) to depression and feeling like a failure. We have so much power as women, to give inspiration and motivation to our men, but most of us don’t recognize this amazing power.
I believe God put that desire in every man, to long for a purpose and mission in this life, even if it seems minor to an outsider, or not as glamorous as someone famous from history – it is still important to your husband, so it should also be important to you.
When Women Come Between Man & His Mission-
Can a wife ever be her husband’s mission? I know this probably sounds laughable 🙂 but trust me, I’ve seen many people write in such a way that you would believe that a wife IS supposed to be her husband’s sole purpose and mission to make happy in life.
No. A woman can never be a man’s mission. But it is surprising how often we see that in real life and in books or movies, and much to that man’s detriment. Instead, it’s normal to see throughout history, examples where instead of like Wilberforce’s wife where she is able to support and ignite his passion again for his mission, we see women who derail, ridicule, or even despise her husband’s mission in life.
I worked with a man who had a wife like this. Even though he was accomplished, smart, making good money and doing research that was his passion and mission in life, his wife would actually ridicule it at home and despised his purpose doing it. She even refused to come to a public ceremony where he won an award for his research! Again, history is rampant with wives like this though, so it’s not an uncommon thing to find women who have no appreciation for their husband’s passions and desires in life.
So be a woman who seeks to understand her husband in the deepest way possible. And try to be diligent about not standing between him and his purpose in life, instead try to make it easier on him by showing him that you support him ❤ .
Here is a poem written back in 1649 by Richard Lovelace, about a man leaving his love because of his duty and honor to fulfill his mission in fighting a war he believed in. Richard himself actually fought in the English Civil War on behalf of the King, so his poem springs from those experiences and emotions based in his reality.
To Lucasta, going to the Wars
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.
Related Reading –
Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and Political Welfare