Oswald Chambers Finds a Wife

Oswald Chambers Biddy

Oswald and Biddy; photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections library

He actually wasn’t looking for a wife at the time, but Oswald Chambers met a charming young woman one day and didn’t pay a lot of attention.

(The story is best told in detail in David McCasland’s Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, but here’s a version based on McCasland’s book).

Dedicated to his Lord, Oswald led a mission at his brother Arthur’s church over Christmas in 1905. Among the people attending were a pair of sisters who had presented themselves for baptism and church members only two months before.

The church was Eltham Park Baptist in eastern London.

The women were Edith and Gertrude Hobbs, ages 26 and 22. Oswald was 31.

Nothing came of that meeting, though Oswald was now on Mrs. Hobbs’ radar, so to speak. It was a casual friendship between Oswald and the family, nothing more.

When Gertrude left London thirty months later to take a job as a stenographer in New York City, she happened to sail on the SS Baltic out of Liverpool. Among the other travelers was Oswald Chambers, on his way to the United States and a summer of camp meetings in Ohio.

Mrs. Hobbs wrote him a letter and asked, if it wasn’t too much of an imposition, for him to look out for “Gert” and provide help, especially when they landed in New York.

A genial man, always, Oswald agreed.

Busy preaching, teaching and leading meetings for the League of Prayer, Oswald was dedicated to one person: Jesus Christ.

He enjoyed traveling by sea because it afforded him long hours to sit in a deck chair and read. He usually carried a number of books with him when he sailed. Undoubtedly, he planned to do just that on this voyage: relax, read and think. Pray, too.

I’m sure he did.

When he wasn’t distracted by the pretty woman with brown hair, blue eyes and a kind smile.

He’d never quite examined Gert that closely before.

McCasland explains it this way:

“Why was he seeing it now? Strange thoughts and feelings rose within him, and he wasn’t sure if he liked them or not. No matter, for the next ten days courtesy required that he at least accompany her to meals and help her get acclimated to the ship. Once in New York, she would begin her new job, and for the next two months, he would be so occupied in preaching and counseling that thoughts of her would be the farthest thing from his mind.”

Except, all you romantics can imagine what happened next.

Because Oswald had a sister named Gertrude, he needed to give Gertrude Hobbs a nickname to differentiate the two in his mind. He thought “Beloved Disciple,” would work well, but it soon got shortened to B.D. and slid right into Biddy.

And that’s how we know her today.

He, meanwhile, was learning more.

Oswald Chambers Biddy

Biddy, 1911; Photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections library

Back to McCasland:

“Every day aboard the SS Baltic, she and Oswald walked together, ate together, and discovered new things about each other. She admired his keen mind, his bright humor and the deep love he held for Jesus Christ. Oswald was impressed with everything about Biddy, from her determination and ability, to her love for animals and her genuine interest in people. How could they have shared so much in common without his realizing it before?”

Indeed.

By the time the ship docked in New York they’d agreed to correspond. When Oswald needed to travel between Cincinnati and camp meetings in Massachusetts and Maine later that summer, what do you think the chances were he stopped in New York City along the way?

By August, he wrote to Biddy  like this:

“All in His good time we have the love, thank God, and the discipline of our characters alone or blended, it is all in his hands.”

An ocean apart

Oswald returned to England and a punishing schedule of League of Prayer meetings. Biddy stayed on in New York to work her job. She didn’t return until November, 1908.

The letters between them continued, Oswald was a prolific writer of letters, and grew in intensity until the preacher discovered the joy of sharing his heart with another.

In October he wrote to his beloved like this:

“I have nothing to offer you but my love and steady lavish service for Him.”

This did not seem to bother the unflappable Biddy.

Not long after, Oswald wrote to Biddy’s mother asking if she had any objections to his writing Gertrude, explaining that he loved her.

He then had to write the difficult letter to his own parents, explaining,

“I am in love and it is quite such a new experience that it opens up so many unknown things that I do not know quite how to put it.”

The problem, of course, was while in love, Oswald was a traveling preacher with little money, and no place of his own to lay down his head, much less share with a bride.

But Biddy had just as strong a faith and believed that if God had brought them together, he would do so.

When she returned to England in November, they pledged their lives to each other and became engaged in front of Holman Hunt’s painting The Light of the World, in St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can read about that engagement here.

They were married May 25, 1910.

Oswald Chambers Wedding

Trust me, they were happy! Photo courtesy Wheaton College Special Collections Library

Proverbs 31:10 asks the pertinent question: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”

Their life together shows that God can put together two to make a perfect match–whether Oswald was paying attention or not.

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5 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Michelle. Oswald Chambers is one of my favorites. Isn’t it amazing how his wife kept alive his legacy?

    Reply
  2. Michelle Ule

     /  July 9, 2014

    He’d not have had a legacy without Biddy–she’s the one who produced all his books after his death. A blog post for another day . . . .

    Reply
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