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|My Sweet Betty||02/22/2008|
I don’t think that first impression impacted me quite as much as seeing her that evening in the opening assembly of what Baptists called “Training Union”. She was several rows in front of me when she turned around and looked over her shoulder and flashed that incredible smile. I saw clearly her beautiful, deep-set dimples and the cheerfulness that revealed the beauty of the inner person. I commented to my friend, “She sure does have a good figure.” To this day, I believe she could still get into her wedding dress. I told her that earlier this week and she said, “Well, I could if it was mine, but remember we borrowed it and I never saw it again.” We smiled because we had such meager means when we wed that it did not take long to dispose of the $37 between us. It was barely enough to cover our one-night honeymoon in an inexpensive motel in Galveston.
When I look back over these 45 years of marriage, I recognize how truly blessed I am to live with such an incredibly beautiful person with so many virtuous qualities. Betty and I “went together” for four years. A relationship that lasts that long presents many challenges, especially related to moral purity. I told her on an early date that one of the reasons I admired her so much was because I could see how thoroughly pure and innocent she was. I encouraged her to always guard that because there might be times when, as a teenage boy, I might lean on her to compromise. Those pressure-packed moments did indeed come, but Betty was the strongest and most inspirational person I have ever known – and is still to this day.
When I think of the unconditional love so clearly expressed in the life of Christ, I can say that I witness that same God-given capacity to love continually expressed through my wife. When I look back over the years, I remember our feelings when our first child was born. When Rhonda was only a few weeks old, Betty accidentally scratched her with her watch as she rolled her over. I tried to comfort Betty as she wept for at least two hours to think that she had hurt her little baby. The scratch was very insignificant, but not to Betty. She has that love for her children where she would rather die, than ever hurt them in any way. This is true for everyone Betty influences.
When Betty found out that she had endometriosis at age 23, she had major surgery to remove one ovary and was told she would likely never have another child. It impacted her beyond description. After several years, through very focused prayer, Betty gave birth in her heart and spirit to our second child. She was led of God to ask me to please consider adopting a son. I felt an immediate witness and common desire and we adopted our son, Randy. Thank God for the labor Betty experienced in travailing prayer, seeking to know the will of God concerning this important decision.
Three years later, to our great surprise, Betty found that she was pregnant with our third child. She gave birth to our daughter, Robin, to complete our immediate family.
I traveled continually in evangelistic crusade ministry for the first 25 years of our marriage. I was gone about 80 percent of the time. I’ve often said that I was trying to help rescue everybody’s children and encourage them to find a meaningful future. Sadly, I could have sacrificed my own children in my attempt to help others. As sincere as I was about reaching others, I was not wise in my use of time. But by the grace of God and the consistent commitment of the most incredible wife and mother, our children grew in the peace and knowledge of the Lord. They all committed their lives to Christ at a young age and continue to grow. They are now married with their own children and wonderful parents to our 11 grandchildren.
When Betty and I look at our children, we believe that they are better parents than we were. Of course, I don’t think it’s possible to be a better mother than Betty, and I think all of our children would readily agree. Nevertheless, we are amazed at their love for God, their love for each other, and their love and devotion to their children. We are indeed fortunate to be able to see the consistency of our children’s commitment to their relationships with God and one another. It appears that our spiritual influence did impact our children in a way that caused them to seek first a meaningful relationship with God -- the ultimate Father -- and Jesus, both Savior and Friend.
As I look back over the years, I see so many ways that I could have and should have done things better. But when I look at Betty, I don’t know how she could have possibly been more effective in her influence and impact, not only on our children, but on our friends.
Betty is basically shy and always felt that she had little ability and few gifts. Perhaps this led to her intense focus on God and family. However, when I look at Betty going to the mission fields of the world, I am amazed. On the first trip to Africa she was so frightened that she cried most of the first night. She never dreamed she would travel to the ends of the earth. She only saw herself in the home “brightening the corner where she was.” Yet she has proven to be an inspirational influence in mission outreaches to the needs of suffering people all over the world. She has wept freely as she held the broken lives of precious children in more than 40 countries. She has been a continual inspiration to the missionaries who have planted their lives in the midst of devastation and sorrow.
More than 10 years ago, when I felt deeply impressed of God that Betty was to sit at my side on television as a co-host and that we were to invite people all over the world to come into the family room and get to know God the Father as He reveals Himself through other believers, she could not even imagine it. Our own friends and staff said, “Betty will only sit there. She’ll be too quiet, too shy to open up and express herself.”
I firmly stated, “I’ve heard God. This is what we are to do. She is willing to step out and trust God.”
As a result, our ministry has expanded around the world, becoming a source of inspiration to get viewers and believers to look beyond their world, become interested and involved on behalf of others, and see themselves as an answer to the prayers of others in need. Betty is a powerful influence, even through she is slow to speak. When she does, it is like a river of love and life flowing out healing streams.
For years, people have recognized me in public, but since Betty began sharing on television, people will actually pass me by to take her hand and say, “You have no idea how much you have blessed my life.” And she says, “But I just don’t say much.” The response is usually, “You don’t have to say a thing. You sit there and glow in the glory of God and I realize how much God can also use me. You are an inspiration.”
I sincerely believe many people listen to me only while hoping and waiting for Betty to share. There is no doubt in my mind she has given me credibility because people respect her so much.
This week, as I do every day, I have told her how beautiful she is. She is physically and spiritually one of the most beautiful persons God ever made. There is no doubt in my mind that without her unconditional love, when I have been distracted, defeated or a disappointment in some way, she has not only held me in arms of love, but she has lifted me out of the pits of despair. She gives me hope while continually offering her help.
For those of you who may not have the joy-filled relationship that we have had for 45 years (and will continue to enjoy), my heart goes out to you and any family member who is also troubled in their relationship. As surely as God wants the best for you, Betty and I do, too. Just know that regardless of what has happened, however painful, however tragic, God really does want for you the same joy and peace that we have found not only in our relationship with each other, but first in our relationship with a living God.
What I have shared, I have shared with gratitude to God for His unspeakable mercy and grace. Our journey has by no means been perfect. We are far from perfect, but we are both in hot pursuit of the One who is perfect. All any of us need and our hearts desire can be met only in Him.
Whatever your circumstances, remember this: You can be as Betty has been for me, the revelation of Jesus to your loved ones and those who cross your path. As we continue in this wonderful relationship we now celebrate, Betty and I are committed to help others find the peace that passes understanding and the joy unspeakable, full of His glory. We both wish to express our thanks to everyone who has lifted us up in prayer.
As I honor my beautiful wife of 45 years, I close with the Biblical description of a virtuous wife:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise and she gives instruction with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household, and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.” (Proverbs 31:25-29 NLT)
There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you - ‘my sweet Betty’ - surpass them all.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 1792
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.