While re-reading about Susannah and Charles' courtship, a few things struck me about the commitment they had not only to one another, but moreover to God himself, and the paths he had marked out for them. I cannot help but be reminded at how dependent Susannah was upon her God as she took on the role as the wife of such a popular preacher. Not only that, at times the demands upon Charles' life left him separated from his earthly love, which would leave him with a burden of absence. Such absence is expressed in some of Charles' letters just before he married Susannah.
As I share some words from Charles Ray's biography concerning the demands of marrying such a preacher, and the burden of absence felt by Charles, it is somewhat striking, when in our courting and marriages today, we demand the right to spend so much time with our partners at the risk of pushing God and ministry to the side. Don't get me wrong, it is vitally important to have 'quality time' with those God gives us. But the example of Charles and Susannah does not fail to reflect the deep, deep love they had for one another and how they cherished every moment together while God's work was faithfully carried out. Charles Ray writes:
When the young minister was in London he had little time for courtship, and when he did visit his fiancee at her Brixton home he usually took proofs of a sermon with him to revise for the press. 'I learned to be quiet and to mind my own business while this important was going on', says Mrs Spurgeon. 'It was a good discipline for the Pastor's intended wife.'
...His wonderful popularity and success as a preacher naturally delighted and awed the timid maiden, but with the pleasure was mingled something of anxiety and distress, for the strain on the preacher's physical power when addressing the large congregations that gathered at Exeter Hall was tremendous, and his fiancee, sitting watching him from the body of the Hall, often felt she must rush to his succour....'Oh, how my heart ached for him! What self control I had to exercise to appear calm and collected and keep quietly in my eat up in that little side gallery! How I longed to have the right to go over and comfort and cheer him when the service was over! But I had to walk away, as other people did - I who belonged to him and was closer to his heart than anyone there! It was sever discipline, for a young and loving spirit.'In a letter to Susannah from a preaching trip to Scotland, Charles writes:
'Oh! what it is to be popular, to be successful, to have abundance, even to have love so sweet as yours - if I should be left of God to fall and to depart from his ways? I tremble at the giddy height on which I stand, and could wish myself unknown, for indeed, I am unworthy of all my honours and my fame.'And yet, amid such struggling thoughts of God, ministry and fame, Charles' affection for Susannah never wained, yet grew deeper, if that were possible in her absence. He writes:
'I have had daydreams of you while driving along...I thought you were very near me. It is not long, dearest, before I shall again enjoy your sweet society, if the providence of God permits. I knew I loved you very much before, but now I feel how necessary you are to me, on my return, more attentive to your feelings, as well as equally affectionate. I can now thoroughly sympathize with your tears, because I feel in no little degree that pang of absence...How then must you, with so much leisure, have felt my absence from you even though you well knew that it was unavoidable on my part! My darling, accept love of the deepest and purest kind from one who is not prone to exaggerate, but who feels that here there is no room for hyperbole.'As Charles Ray concludes: "It must have been no ordinary woman who could draw such letters from Charles Haddon Spurgeon."
Stay posted next week for Susannah and Charles' marriage, and what an occasion that was!