When I was in my 30’s, I became friends with a group of women in my area who were involved in a serious Bible study. A lot of them had left the local Baptist church because it was too liberal for them and they had formed a community church. They were kind, caring people who were always doing things for each other and for other people. I wanted to be just like these women, so I started attending their Bible study in hopes that some of their goodness would rub off on me.

One day the group leader told the story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, as if she had been there in the crowd. I remember her saying,

“I was in Jericho the day that Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples came. In fact I was in the crowd standing right next to the blind beggar Bartimaeus and when Jesus came near, Bartimaeus started to yell, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
All of us tried to get him to be quiet, but he would not stop yelling, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And all of a sudden, Jesus called out to him, so I helped him up and led him to Jesus.
Jesus turned and said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Bartimaeus without even hesitating said, “Let me receive my sight, Master.”
And Jesus said, “Go your way, for your faith has made you well.”
I wanted to tell Jesus what I wanted him to do for me, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t know what to say.

Blind woman by © Sergey KhakimullinThen the group leader said, “ And now, almost 2000 years later, still if we call out and say ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,’ we need to be ready to say what it is that we want him to do for us.”

We talked about this story for the rest of the morning, discussing what we needed to do and ask for to be good wives and mothers. Then we decided to study in depth about how to be a good wife. Our leader ordered the necessary tapes and workbooks and each week we had an assignment. We listened to the tapes, read scripture, did our assignments and also had little extra tasks we had to before our next meeting.

About this same time Marabel Morgan wrote The Total Woman and we incorporated ideas from her book into our class, such as cooking special meals for our husband and putting little surprises by his plate at dinner. Morgan even had some more ridiculous suggestions in the book, like meeting your husband at the door wrapped in Saran Wrap or wearing a raincoat with nothing else underneath it when he came home from work, and then opening up the coat to surprise him…and we did it all. And that did get my husband’s attention!

According to our Bible study teacher and Marabel Morgan, if I did all these special things for my husband and I was submissive to his will…didn’t argue with him and let him make all the decisions, then it was his job to love and take care of me and our family like Christ loves his church. I couldn’t imagine a more enriched marriage and fulfilled life than that would be.

But my husband wasn’t in that stage of his life or maybe he just didn’t agree with the concept, because he did not change one bit. He worked hard as Director of Personnel at First National Bank of Atlanta, and was frequently late and tired when he got home. Some days when I prepared a special treat or his favorite meal and had it waiting for him, he might be 2 hours late getting home from work. He was not impressed and often did not even notice the unusual food and gifts. He even told me he thought the whole concept sounded a lot like manipulation. So needless to say, I was disappointed and felt like I was a failure.

When we got together with our close friends, the guys played one-upmanship games and seemed to boast to each other as they said things like, “Well I worked late four nights this week” and “I got up at 5 AM and traveled all day on Monday” and “I went here and there…” as if the most important person was the one who had worked the most hours for the week. There was never any talk about what good wives they had or the delicious meals we prepared or the importance of supporting their families. Their scorecard was completely different from mine.

Every week we reported back to the Bible study group about how things were going at home and I heard some fantastic stories, but I just listened because I never had anything to say.

This continued for quite a while and I thought I’m just not trying hard enough. These women are making it work, and I can do it, too. So I tried harder and harder…but still nothing changed. And I became a little more frustrated and then a lot more frustrated and FINALLY one day the thought occurred to me…Why do I have a good brain and special talents if I’m not allowed to use them? If I’m not supposed to make any decisions or think for myself, why do I have these thoughts? Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

And then I heard the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And I said, “I want to be able to use my brain as God intended me to use it.”

Not long after that, the new associate pastor assigned to our church was a woman, which was a rare thing in those days. One day I talked to her about all of this and she said, “It seems to me like you need to go back to school.”

When I married at age 19, I had not finished college. My youngest child had just started first grade and going back to school was something I had always planned to do. My husband supported me completely by encouraging me to enroll. So after a lengthy application process, I reentered Georgia State University at age 35 and for 2 ½ years I attended classes and graduated with honors. My husband was very proud of me and agreed with me that I should immediately start graduate school.

One month after I graduated, my husband died suddenly of a heart attack. My whole life changed in a matter of minutes and I didn’t know if I’d survive. It took weeks to fully grasp what had happened and even longer to figure out how the kids and I would live. I had so much to learn.

I had often said that when I married, I went from my father telling me what to do to my husband telling me what to do. But now I was the only person in charge of my life…not only mine, but I had three children to care for. And for the first time in my life, because I had gone back to school, I was prepared and ready to support us.

I’m so glad that I got out of that skin of the submissive woman so I could start preparing to do what had to be done. What would have happened to me and my three children if I hadn’t decided to use my brain?

As I continued in graduate school, I began taking more computer classes and concentrating on skills that would enable me to get a good job. After several months I accepted a job offer with a computer software company close to my home and became a systems analyst and programmer. Figuring out ways to solve problems challenged me, and I loved the job. And not only could I do the work, I communicated well with our clients, so I was always included in customer visits and soon became head of training. It was the perfect job, with flexible hours that allowed me to be at home when my children needed me. I felt challenged and capable, plus had a lot of fun.

Years later as I look back on this story, I think thank goodness I had the experience of asking the question and finding the answer. It changed the course of my life and enabled me to survive at a crucial time in my life. It wasn’t easy being a single mom, working and raising three children, but at least I was prepared and able to earn a good living and keep our lives together.

Even though sometimes we can be as blind as Bartimaeus, if we have the courage to speak our minds and pay attention to our hearts, we can not only just survive, but actually live, grow and thrive. I’m so glad I asked the question and paid attention to the answer.

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Blind woman by © Sergey Khakimullin - licensed at Dreamstime.com by LikeTheDew.com.
Diane Rooks

Diane Rooks

Diane loves telling stories to audiences of all ages and teaching people about storytelling. She's been involved in storytelling and public speaking for many years and uses those skills to create programs and stories to help people navigate changes in their live. Her storytelling path changed direction following the death of her son when she realized that stories were the key to her own healing process. She grew stronger by remembering and telling stories of her son, which kept him present in her daily life. Selected milestones on her journey: Masters Degree in Storytelling - East Tennessee State UniversityAuthor of Spinning Gold out of Straw - How Stories Heal and the new CD/audiocassette - "Selected Stories from Spinning Gold out of Straw"Frequent teller on WFCF-FM Treasury of TalesLiving history performer for St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and St. Augustine Historic Preservation BoardStorytelling World special advisor and contributorHealing Story Alliance secretary and resource coordinatorPerformer in dozens of festivals including Atlanta Storytelling Festival, Florida Folk Festival, Gamble Rogers Festival, Cracker Festival, Stephen Foster Festival, Caladium Festival, Florida Citrus Festival - and othersPresenter at the national conference of The Compassionate Friends, an international organization for bereaved parentsMember of National Storytelling Network, Southern Order of Storytellers, Florida Storytellers Association, and Tale Tellers of St. Augustine.Former board member of FSA and Tale TellersState representative and judge for the National Storytelling Youth OlympicsCertified bereavement facilitator - American Academy of BereavementFacilitator of local chapter of The Compassionate Friends organizationKeynote speaker -- Community Hospice of NE FloridaContributor to Sandspun -- Florida Tales by Florida TellersTeacher for school students developing stories from historyTeacher and coach for performers at World Golf VillageCultural exchange student at University of Edinburgh, ScotlandPerformer for ElderhostelStoryteller for Camp Healing Powers - a bereaved children's campDiane is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and holds an AB from Georgia State University in Psychology and Information Systems and an M.Ed. from ETSU. In addition to her deceased son, she has two daughters and six grandchildren. She and her husband, Wilton Rooks, live on Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, and enjoy sailing and traveling.