Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Premature Widow

Anne Steele (1716-1778)

It was the best dress she had ever owned. Her delicate hand lovingly smoothed over the sheen of the rich, heavy fabric and fingered the hand-crocheted lace along the neckline. She smiled as she thought of the bouquets of summer flowers that brightened the entrance to the parlor where soon, in just a few more hours, her wedding would take place.

Suddenly, voices were heard in the street outside her window, strong neighbors pounded upon the door of her house. She heard her stepmother rush to open it, and then wail, "No! No! No!" Two men and the village pastor carried in the body of her fiance from the river where he had just drowned.

Anne Steele never did marry after that. She quietly lived out her days in the same small town in Hampshire, England and wrote 144 hymns, 34 metrical psalms and 50 moral poems while struggling with poor health. In 1760 she published some of her poems under a pen name, seeming to prefer anonymity. In 1863, long after her death, her entire works were printed in one volume. Read more about Anne Steele here.

Today, oddly enough, the Christian band, Jars of Clay, appreciates the depth and insight of this almost-widow. In their jartifacts they write, "Through her words we are able to say things like, 'God is still good in the midst of my suffering. The gospel still meets me here. Salvation still meets me here. Mercy and grace still find a valid home in the midst of my pain and frustration.' Where does that kind of faith come from? "

Here's a snippet from their version of one of Anne Steele's hymns, Jesus, I Lift My Eyes

Isn't it amazing that a woman's writing from some 260 years ago influences a band today? What will people say about you and your faith hundreds of years from now? You never know . . .

On Wednesdays we share stories of widows, a different one each week. They might be from the Bible, from history, from the news headlines or maybe even from you! Your “ordinary” story will be told here to others who will understand it's truly “extraordinary.” Just email me at It’s easy.   ferree


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