While crossing a bridge in London, he stumbled and sprained his ankle. Some friends carried him to the house of Mrs. Mary Vazielle. She was a widow of a London merchant, with several children. She cared for him and his response to her concern was to ask her to marry him. As Christians, most of us might say that the sprained ankle was God’s providential way to bring those people together. But the marriage was a disaster, and Mary finally left him.
Had he consulted with his brother, Charles, who was a fellow minister, and asked for the prayers of the brethren, he might have avoided that unfortunate situation. Mary was accustomed to her quiet home, and it was difficult for her to travel with her husband and stay in uncomfortable inns. It is unfortunate that Mary was not content just to ignore her husband’s ministry (yes, he was a minister); she actually opposed it. She gave certain personal letters to his enemies and even made additions to them that made them worse! Once she even pulled her husband around on the floor by his hair! “I felt as though I could have knocked the soul out of her!” one of this minister’s friends said. He concluded that his unhappy marriage encouraged him to work harder and not complain about missing the comforts of a home. Certainly it encouraged him to be away from home more!
This minister was called John Wesley, the man of God who gave us Methodism and left a great legacy of close walk with God.
John Wesley married Mrs. Vazeille in 1751. Before the wedding, it was agreed that he should not preach one sermon or travel one mile less than before his marriage, taking care that marriage would not overly affect his ministry for God. During the first four years Mrs. Wesley accompanied her husband on many of his journeys, but she naturally grew discontented with the discomforts of this unsettled life, and when she remained at home she became possessed of such an absurd jealousy. Wesley early discovered her to be of an angry and bitter spirit. She seized her husband’s papers, interpolated his letters, and then gave them into the hands of his enemies or published them in the newspapers. She shut up Charles Wesley with her husband in a room, and told them of their faults with much detail and violence. Sometimes Mrs. Wesley drove a hundred miles to see who was with her husband in his carriage.
John Hampson, one of Wesley’s preachers, witnessed her in one of her fits of fury, and said, “More than once she laid violent hands upon him, and tore those venerable locks which had suffered sufficiently from the ravages of time.” She often left him, but returned again in answer to his entreaties. In 1771 Wesley wrote: “For what cause I know not, my wife set out for Newcastle, purposing never to return. I did not forsake her; I did not dismiss her; I shall not recall her.”
In 1774 a petulant letter from Mary shows she was still with her husband. She died at Camberwell, in 1781, when Wesley was in the West of England. Jackson, in his Life of Charles Wesley says that several letters of Wesley to his termagant wife, during his worst trials from her, show
the utmost tenderness of affection, such as few female hearts could have withstood; and justify the opinion that, had it been his happiness to be married to a person who was worthy of him, he could have been one of the most affectionate husbands that ever lived. Those who think that he was constitutionally cold and repulsive utterly mistake his character.
He told Henry Moore that he believed God overruled this prolonged sorrow for his good; and that if Mrs. Wesley had been a better wife, and had continued to act in that way she knew well how to act, he might have been unfaithful to his great work, and might have sought too much to please her according to her own desires.
Anytime I sit through a wedding ceremony, I wonder whether people mean the words of the wedding vows, ‘to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do us part’. That is a long-term commitment, and I wonder if we usually understand and or mean it.
My friend Dr Moses Ademola told me something his friend Paul (who I later met, together with his wife) told him. Paul indicated that he loved his wife even before he met her. How is that possible? you may ask. It was Paul’s decision to love anyone who occupied the position of wife in his life. That decision was irrespective of the person who occupied that position.
I once received a mail from my dear friend Estella Neizer-Eshun, entitled ‘Did I marry the right person?’ If we will be frank with ourselves, a time comes in our marriage relationship when we ask ourselves that question. This begins when the euphoria of ‘falling in love’ wanes. And it will wane. Wesley must have asked himself that question umpteen times. In such times, what is needed is not worrying whether we made the right choice, the right decision. What we need to do is to think of ways to make the decision right, to right our choice.
It has been said that when people marry, many stop trying. From the example of Wesley, we see a continuous attitude of trying, of tenacity in righting the decision he made. I believe couples in our day give up too easily, in our marriages. We are ready to fight for our jobs, for our properties, for everything else except our marriages, our relationships, our covenant with our spouses before God, to hold on, till death do us part.
Even for those of us who believe and know that we made the right decisions with regards to our life partners, we go through the phase, say after a difficult disagreement, when you ask yourself that question – Was it a right move? In Nottingham, when I went into difficult days with my MSc course, I asked myself whether it was a good move to come to do my Masters, to do Chemical Engineering. We often romanticise about what could have been over what is. I knew and now even know better that it was the best move to study. I know that I chose a good wife. And that is where you always need to go back to: the beginning, where and when and for what reasons you took the decision. (I have found that it helped to note these reasons in a journal or a book.) I have come to realise that it makes all the difference and keeps me on the right track of my career, on my marriage, of my life.
It is not always that we may make (or think we’ve made) the right decision concerning marriage, about our careers; but certainly, it is our responsibility to right the decision we made – always.
Stop romanticising about what could have been, about the past. Think of what you can do to make your marriage work better.
“One thing that previous practice doesn’t always make perfect: Marriage.” Malcom Forbes
“No compass has ever been invented for the high seas of matrimony.’” Heinrich Heine
“All marriages are happy. It is the living together afterwards that causes all the trouble.” Raymond Hull
“Marriage is a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters in prose.” Beverley Nichols
“We would have broken up except for the children. Who are the children? She and I.” Mart Sahl
“By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates
“Take it from me, marriage isn’t a word – it is a sentence.” King Vidor
“Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly.” Francois-Marie Voltaire
“Man’s best possession is a sympathetic wife.” Euripides
About the WriterNana Awere Damoah was born in Accra, Ghana. He is the author of 3 books: Tales from Different Tails, Through the Gates of Thought and Excursions in My Mind. Nana started serious writing in 1993 when he was in sixth form and has had a number of his short stories published in the Mirror and the Spectator. In 1997, he won first prize in the Step magazine National Story Writing Competition. His short story Truth Floats was published in the first edition of African Roar Anthology. He is the creator and editor of Story Loom.