Before I begin I would like to mention two verses of Scripture that mean a lot to me. The first is Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ This is the verse that I hold onto when things are difficult and the truth it contains has brought me through many difficult days. The second verse is 1 Samuel 15:22-23, ‘So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” This is the verse that helps to keep me on the straight and narrow. How awful we think witchcraft is1 well, in the eyes of God, rebellion – that is disobedience to God – is in god’s eyes as the sin of witchcraft. That often stops me in my tracks.
My name is Marie Murphy. I am married to Stephen and I have two sons, Stephen and Daniel. I am from the Dundalk area and I was brought up about two miles outside town in what was then the country.
Do you know when you have one of those moments when you feel as if something really important is happening and afterwards you can always remember where you were when it happened? Well, I have had several of those and looking back, I can see that it was God interrupting my life and catching my attention.
The first time it happened I was eight years old and I remember being at home one day, actually I was walking up the hallway in my parents’ house, and as I passed underneath the trapdoor in the attic I suddenly thought, ‘What am I doing here? Why am I alive? I must be here for a reason. Surely you just don’t exist and then stop!’ the thought really scared me and I did not know who I could ask that would not tell me not to be silly. I did not know anyone who would answer my question seriously. So I told myself not to be silly and tried to forget it.
A few years later, when I was in first year in Secondary school, I was in history class one day when it happened again. The teacher was teaching us about thc reformation period in history and we were learning about a man called Martin Luther. Martin Luther opposed the Catholic church teaching on selling indulgences. This is where the Catholic church taught that if you paid the church money for ‘indulgences’ you would get reduced time in purgatory or get straight into heaven. Martin Luther opposed this and he opposed other teachings as well. He was excommunicated from the church. Now I was only thirteen but even I knew that only God could decide who got into heaven and you definitely could not buy your way in.
It was as if the world stopped and stood still. I suddenly realised that if Martin Luther was right and he was excommunicated hwere did that leave the Catholic church?
Instinctively I knew that I would get into trouble if I asked this kind of question. Again I kept it to myself.
At home I had a really good life. My parents worked really hard to give us all the things they didn’t have growing up. So I had a very happy childhood. I was the middle child in a family of five, tow older brothers and two younger sisters. We had a ball! My parents were very loving and instilled in us many good habits. Lying was not tolerated and there was never any fear in the home.
Where I lived in the country there was a lot of drink about. I can actually say that one of the nieghbours I never saw sober in my life. Around us many families were plagued with drink. One family who lived close by had a son my father’s age and he used to come home drunk and beat his mother and sister. This scared the wits out of us as kids. When he was sober he was grand and when he was drunk he was awful. I promised myself I would never date a guy who drank. I was so scared that I would grow up and marry someone like that.
I remember my Dad once saying that drink had no place in the family home. He himself had taken the pledge and so, whilst we saw at close quarters the devastation it caused, we never had to suffer it in the house.
When I went to College I was an ardent Catholic and really missed religion teaching. One day I saw a notice on the college notice board advertising a Bible study in one of the teachers’ homes and decided to go with a lot of friends.
The poor lady, I was such an ardent Catholic that if the Pope did not say it, it was not true! I was very defensive and challenged everything.
Then one day the third thing happened. I was at a Bible study and I just read on myself when everyone else was talking about something and what I read changed my entire life. Matthew 13:54-57, ‘When He had come to his country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s Son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things? So they were offended at Him. but Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house.” Reading this I realized that Jesus had real brothers and sisters. The Catholic church taught that Mary stayed a virgin all her life, that she only had one child, Jesus. The ‘Holy Family’ was Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
Both the Catholic church and the Bible could not be true. I had to think. I kept tossing it back and forth in my mind, but no matter what way I looked at it they both could not be right. In the end, I decided that the Bible was God’s Word, then it must be true so I would believe it. I had no idea of how this would change my life.
I continued to attend the studies each week and I loved them, but I was a bit worried. This college lecturer was not a Catholic. I did not know what church she attended but it was not Catholic so I thought that if it was not Catholic it must be Protestant. I went to visit a friend of my brother’s who was a priest and I asked him the difference between Catholics and Protestants. He said Protestants did not believe in transubstantiation and they did not believe in Mary. I made sure that this was the only difference and, armed with this information, I went back to the Bible study thinking no one wuld catch me out. What I discovered was that this lady did believe in Mary and so did the others who called themselves Christian.
By this time I had met Stephen and became engaged and wanted to have the best relationship and marriage you could have. Stephen was a nominal Roman Catholic but just to please ma he came to some meetings. In November 1979 a weekend away was organized by a group of Christians including Chris Mayers and lady who ran the Bible studies I attended. The weekend was on relationships and naturally I wanted us both to attend. The couple who spoke at the weekend had teenage children and what I remember most was a lady, Joan Cardoo. I disagreed with everything she said about the role of women and in particular the role of married women. I thought she was from the Stone Age with her ideas. She spoke about the husband being the head of the house and about submission. In my books she was way off. However, what I could not deny was the relationship she had with her husband. It was so close and you knew watching that it was no pretence. It was what I wanted in my marriage. What also stood out was the relationship they both had with their children. It was obvious that their son really loved and respected them and he was very open with them as if they were friends. They had everything I wanted and she believed everything I didn’t.
The following March (it was a St. Patrick’s bank holiday weekend) there was another weekend away. This time the topic was, ‘How certain can you be?’ It was, ‘How sure can you be of where you will spend eternity?’ The speakers were Reggie Fry and Pastor Dunlop. Stephen told me on the way home that he was saved. I did not understand.
Imagine three years of Bible study and I still could not see. We went back to my parents’ home and Stephen explained it to me. He explained to me that I was a sinner and how awful my sin was in the eyes of God. But, because He loved me, His Son took my punishment the cross, how really it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. My eyes were suddenly opened. I was devastated. The awfulness of my sin hit me and I saw how terrible I was and I was overcome by the fact that someone loved me so much that even though He knew me, the ‘real’ me and all the things I had done and would do in the future, He still willingly chose to die for me. I was broken and humbled and I asked for forgiveness and asked Jesus to take over my life and change me, and He did.
That was March 1980. I married Stephen that year in August and he is a total blessing to me. We have two sons, Stephen and Daniel who are 20 and 18 and who both belong to the Lord. He has also provided me with a daughter-in-law who also belongs to Him and she is a treasure.
After I got saved all the things I had heard over the previous three years started to fall into place. Now I realised that as Christ was the head of the church and loved her so much that He died for her that is the way a man is called to be head of his wife. It is a high calling with a huge responsibility. If you are loved so much, and constantly love and blessings are heaped upon you by your husband, then submitting to him is not a problem. You know he has you as a priority in his life, after God of course. It would be hard to resist that kind of love.
As regards bringing up your children and having a good relationship with your husband. Forget the ‘How to’ books, the Scripture shows us how to love and tells us how to discipline. It tells us how to be parents, friends, brothers and sisters, how to be peacemakers, how to witness. It tells us so much. The problem is following it all and being faithful.
I know that I have been so blessed and I know that I have seen the results of God’s faithfulness in our children. Sure we made plenty of mistakes and neither of us is perfect or anywhere near it. But God is gracious and loving and quick to forgive and He has truly blessed us.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love children. Well, there is another reason I do get involved in children’s work. I think of the questions I had as a child and there was no adult that I felt I could ask who would take me seriously. Now I know that I am not unique and that all children have lots of spiritual questions. So who do they ask? If they live in a Christian home of course they can ask their parents. But what if they don’t? How many children live in Christian homes? Not many, so what about those children? As Christians we need to be there for the next generation. At the club on Friday I was asked by some of the children about some pictures on the front of some c.d.’s. What really shocked me was what they considered decent dress. As long as the girl had any top on or whether it was her hair that was covering her. This was acceptable, after all they said she was a popstar and she needed to promote her records. These children are between 10 and 13. This is the guidance and answers they receive from the world. We need to be available to them and show them the alternative.