You may have heard of Monroeville, Alabama. It’s the place where Harper Lee grew up. Where she wrote that book To Kill a Mockingbird. I was in Monroeville last year. Went up there for a book conference and to visit some of my author friends. I say up there because at the time I was living in Fairhope and it was up from the Gulf.
That’s where I was introduced to the music of Kate Campbell. I’d never heard tell of her before, which is kind of odd in itself because I’m a big fan of bluegrass and old time music. I know some folks just can’t stand it. All that picking and mournfulness. I think what I like about Bluegrass & Country music is the storytelling. Telling a story in three minutes or less is no easy task. Kate does a beautiful job of it. After hearing Kate I bought her Sing Me Out CD.
There’s this song on that CD. It’s the song of a mother praying for her son, Junior. It seems Junior is physically disabled and the song his mama sings is a plea to God: “Who will pray for Junior when I’m gone?” she asks.
During our last phone conversation Connie told me that she had been up that night, praying.
“I did a lot of praying for you and Tim last night,” she said.
When Connie prays God listens like E. F. Hutton used to do.
She saved my marriage with her prayers.
There was this one year. This one very bad year when Tim and I were just fed up with each other. It was the same year Ash and Shelby were graduating from high school. I’d called Connie one day and said I was through with it. I didn’t want to be married any more. I still remember the phone call.
I was sitting on that same porch where I had the conversation with God about fear.
In the exact same rocker.
It was a sunny day. Warm. I was wearing my 80s faded jeans. The kids were in the house. Shelby was playing the piano.
I told Connie that Tim and I were likely headed for a divorce. She asked me why and I told her. Then she just flat out told me how lame I was, how wrong I was and how disobedient and selfish I was. Not in a ugly, mean way. But in a loving, I’m concerned for you but not going to tolerate your idiocracy for one minute way. Connie could always get away with talking to me like that because I know her love for me is boundless.
Mama read to me a passage from her devotional this week. It was a quote from C.S. Lewis about how God isn’t concerned about our happiness, what he wants from us is our obedience. Keith Green wrote a song to that effect years ago. We are duty-bound to God, C.S. Lewis said. Duty-bound to be the people God created us to be.
Connie has lived that principle of duty-first. It was, she insisted, the key to happiness. That “Seek you first the Kingdom of God…” thing.
I had a conversation with Shelby recently about marriage.We were talking about how love happens, whether it’s that instant thing or whether you just fall into it, that sort of thing, and I said, “At some point, Shelby, love is a choice. You have to make up your mind to do it.” Shelby said she was just waiting for someone to make their mind to love her.
I fell in love with Tim at the same time Connie fell in love with Ed. It wasn’t a love-at-first-sight kind of love. It grew more slowly than that. We started out as friends but the moment it turned to romance we both fell in love very quickly.
But 20 years down the road we had to make a choice to love one another.
Some days we still do, even after 30 years. Thankfully, most days, it comes easy. Those are the biscuit and gravy days.
I wonder how many marriages Connie has saved with her prayers. She sat up in bed the other night and asked me to pray for her. When I finished Connie began to pray. Struggling for breath, she prayed with a righteous fervor for a dozen others. It was a prayer of praise and thanksigving. A prayer of concern and of hope. She did not once ask God for anything for herself. It was all about others.
We think that life is about the big moments when duty calls. But it isn’t. It’s about the 100,000 little decisions we make everyday. When we choose to do the right thing, the way Connie has, it’s like putting pennies in the bank. When the big moment comes, you can break open that bank and use the reserve to carry you through the hard times or to splurge on your friends if you choose.
Connie banked her prayers for all our sakes.
Her prayers saved my marriage and I’ve heard a hundred stories this week of how her prayers have blessed so many others. That vision of Connie praying in the middle of the night reminded me of Kate Campbell’s song about Junior.