Character Friday – Barbara Spooner Wilberforce

Yesterday I lacked inspiration on who to write about, but then I remember this great article about Barbara Wilberforce that my friend Courtney wrote over at her blog I Am Woman. A blog where she discusses what she is learning on how to be a true woman of God. (It’s awesome, you should check it out!)  She graciously allowed me to re-post it. (Thanks Courtney!)
The Victory of Two
Tonight my sister and I watched the movie Amazing Grace. It portrays the story of William Wilberforce, a leader in the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. This movie always makes me want to cry, for it is a story of a man who was passionate about the Lord and passionate about justice. His life truly was one of perseverance and endurance. He remained faithful, and eventually accomplished the task God had given him: the abolition of the slave trade.
The life of this man inspires me. I want to be a William Wilberforce. I want to be faithful, and set about to proclaim freedom to those enslaved by sin. To cry out to people:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
But that is not the topic I want to cover in this post. As I watched this film about William, I was struck by the role his wife, Barbara Spooner, played in his life. Barbara came into William’s life at a time when his bill to abolish the slave trade had been rejected…again. He was physically sick, and emotionally stripped of his passion. He had given up.
They became friends, and soon learned that they shared many of the same political and moral views. She too was passionate about the abolition of slavery, but whenever she tried to converse with him about it, he would change the subject. It was too painful for him to talk about. It reminded him of what he thought was his failing to accomplish what God had called him to do.
On a walk one day, she cautiously brought it up again. As he began to talk and express his defeat and frustration, she listened patiently. This conversation soon turned into an all night recollection of all he had tried to accomplish. He told her of the years of evidence he and his colleagues had collected, that they were sure this time they would be victorious. But they had once again failed.
Barbara, still listening, gets from the couch they are sitting on, and walks towards a curtained window. She opens it and seeing that it is now morning, she lets the light in. She looks at him and says:
“After the night comes day.”
It was through this encouragement William is then seen packing his bags, headed back to London to fight once more for the cause.
Oh, and he married Barbara too. 🙂
What struck me the most through the example of Barbara Wilberforce, was the fact that she truly lived out her God-given role as a helpmate.
In Genesis, we have the account of God creating the first woman.
“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be 
alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the 
ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and 
every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see 
what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living 
creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the 
cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, 
but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So 
the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, 
and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the 
flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the 
rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.”
Genesis 2:18-22
The word helper is used twice in these verses. The Lord made woman for what purpose? To be a suitable helper for the man. Now, I know many women have a problem with this, but that is another blog post. I didn’t write the Bible, God did…so ask Him about it. 😉
After watching Amazing Grace, I was struck by a thought. Yes I want to make a difference in the world for the glory of the Lord, and yes I want to do big things for God. But I also have to realize that I may not always be the one on the front lines. I may not be the one to stand in parliament, displaying my bill for the abolition of slavery. I may not be President of the United States, or another Billy Graham. I may be called to the role of Barbara Wilberforce, encouraging the man who is standing in parliament, changing the world. One is not less than the other. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement and exhortation of Barbara, William would have given up. They were victorious together.
I want to marry a William Wilberforce. I will not settle for a man who is passive towards his God-given role of making disciples and proclaiming the gospel. I would soon stay single before I settle. But I must also take a good hard look at my own life, and see if I am developing qualities that make me suitable to be the helper to someone who is passionately seeking God.
Am I living my life, and developing qualities that will equip me for this role? Do I live my life for what I want and expect others to serve me? Or do I follow the example of Jesus who:
“…did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give 
His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:28
So my exhortation to you, my sisters, is this: ask the Lord to search your heart. Take a good hard look at the way you are living your life, and see if you are willing to live the role of helper. If marriage is what the Lord calls you to, are you going to be able to stand behind your man, and help him in his role…whatever it may be?
At the close of the film, when William’s bill is passed, and the slave trade has been abolished once and for all, Lord Charles Fox stands up and says these words:
“When people speak of great men, they think of men like 
Napoleon – men of violence. Rarely do they think of 
peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive 
when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will 
arrive in pomp and in power, a man who’s achieved the 
very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be 
haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, 
however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow 
and remember: the slave trade is no more.”
These words bring tears to my eyes. What an amazing thing the Lord did through the life of William Wilberforce. And through his wife, Barbara. 🙂

One thought on “Character Friday – Barbara Spooner Wilberforce

  1. What an excellent example of how God has designed men and women to be! It illustrates beautifully that following God’s plan (rather than following the world’s path) helps us accomplish great things together. This complimentary dynamic between a husband and wife remains somewhat mysterious…but it works!! Speaking from personal experience, I can honestly say that the most satisfying, fulfilling “job” I have ever enjoyed is that of being a supportive wife and mother. I do believe you are learning to serve and are exhibiting this attitude/behavior already! Whoever invites you to be his helpmate in life will be a blessed man 🙂

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