Memoirs have always been popular, but in recent years, along with the rise of blogs, memoirs have become even more popular. They’re interesting because as someone once said, “It turns out that a memoir is by far the best way to find out what it’s like to be someone else.” Memoirs by most people, no matter how revealing of their private lives, have little interest to me, but Standing in the Gap is different. Yes, it’s very transparent as any good memoir should be, but it’s written by an insightful Christian woman, Gladys Blews Wilson, a retired newspaper staff writer in western Pennsylvania.
Standing in the Gap deals with a three-year period in Gladys’ life (1969-1972), a time when she was living in Pittsburgh and was the mother of three teenage children. It’s condensed from her prayer journal and includes some incredibly traumatic experiences and a variety of honest struggles with growth areas in her life. Included in this work are notes from some of her personal Bible studies, as well as interviews with several interesting Christian leaders –an Anglican evangelist, a born-again Catholic priest, and a retired Presbyterian missionary. I would note that the author is an evangelical who has a genuine openness to other Christian traditions and a desire for unity of all true believers in the Body of Christ.
Gladys writes in the clear style of a journalist. At times you see her flair for words. For example, describing one early morning on a missions trip to the hollows of Kentucky she writes, “The dew-wet flower petals sparkled as the early morning sun shone through the mist causing it to rise from the valley. We didn’t expect such a breathtaking vision of God’s creation and it was something to keep in mind as we approached an unpainted house with walls sagging drunkenly. But the walls were less askew than the stepless porch. The house was an obscenity as out-of-place as a pile of garbage on a green, velvet carpet.”
But good writing isn’t the main reason I recommend this book to you; rather, it’s the painful struggles Gladys faced, even from childhood, and how she grew from them. Marriage helped Gladys, as it does most of us, to grow and to face head-on some of her sinful patterns. She writes candidly of her jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness and how God showed her, through study of His Word and life experience, some antidotes for them. The book also reveals how she and her husband learned to work through differences of opinion in a mature way.
Even though Gladys and Frank had three children of their own (and a fourth one later), as well as lots of extended family responsibilities, they got involved in the lives of numerous people through their church, neighborhood, jobs, inner city ministry, small groups, mission trips, and individuals that God surprisingly brought along their path. Just one anecdote: “By chance” they met Richard, a young Englishman backpacking through the United States, and invited him to spend several weeks in their home and in the home of one of their Christian friends. During all his time in Pittsburgh, Richard met many believers, including the English evangelist John Guest. Eventually Richard came to Christ as his Savior and Lord. Of their first meeting after his conversion, Gladys wrote, “Richard and I were laughing together over the crazy, wonderful things God had brought about to accomplish His plan. ‘You knew we were praying for your salvation all this time,’ I said. ‘Of course, I knew,’ Richard said, ‘And if I were to name the most powerful witness in my life these past weeks, it was Frank praying before meals in your home.’… Not all the outstanding Bible teachers and Christian leaders we’d brought into Richard’s life? No, it was sitting at our kitchen table … in our tiny kitchen where so much of our life was being lived with our Lord.”
I could go on and on with great stories from Standing in the Gap, but I hope this is enough to whet your appetite to read this mosaic from the life of an honest Christian woman. (By the way, Gladys would love to correspond with any of you. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)