April 26, 2008

Dear Miriam 4

capSometime ago I received a letter from someone whom I have long admired-Miriam Wood.
 “Dear Bill,” she wrote, “this is not an easy letter to write, but I think it is something I must do. I am learning that time has a way of marching along, diluting one’s strength and taking as much energy as can be gleaned from the protesting victim. I am fully in accordance with the poet who wrote:
“‘Time, you old gypsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?’
“But of course, the ‘old gypsy man’ just smiles and moves ever faster.
 “You know why I am indulging in all this philosophy, I am sure. I have now authored the Dear Miriam column for more than 11 years and have enjoyed it more than any other writing I have ever done. But I find that more and more I feel apprehensive lest I miss a deadline or mistakenly send in the same column twice (even though I supposedly have systems that are designed to prevent slips of any kind).”
In my reply I told her my first impulse was to send her letter back, as in those British government situations where the prime minister refuses to accept a resignation. But reluctantly I put feeling aside and honored her decision.
I invited Miriam Wood to write a question-and-answer column as soon as I became editor of the Adventist Review. Dear Miriam was an instant hit, and throughout 12 years and nearly 150 columns it never flagged, never fell into clichés, never turned predictable or sour.
Dear Miriam was quintessential Miriam Wood: wise, balanced, courageous, good-humored, and Adventist Christian through and through.
Remember, all those columns came about in retirement, after a long and busy life as an English teacher, minister’s wife, and writer. Yet the freshness of Miriam’s mind bridged the gap between the generations, kept her writing at the top of readers’ evaluations in our periodic surveys of subscribers and nonsubscribers. Thus, even while longtime Review readers kept letting me know that they hoped Dear Miriam would continue indefinitely, an Adventist “yuppie”--a boomer holding down a top executive position--was urging me to run the column every week instead of monthly.
Miriam Wood is the Adventist Ann Landers. She has all the qualities that have made Ann Landers and her twin, Abby, so successful--and more. Because for Miriam, the ultimate goal isn’t entertainment or interest--it is the glory of God and the building up of His people.
Miriam Wood is a Seventh-day Adventist whose faith permeates life. Dear Miriam sought to marry religion with life and succeeded admirably; but this had long been her hallmark. Miriam Wood is real, Miriam Wood is herself. Among her 16 books and numerous earlier columns, you can read her frank account of growing up Adventist, struggling with grace and guilt, in Reluctant Saint, Reluctant Sinner (Review and Herald, 1975); or the joys and trials of a minister’s wife (she married Kenneth Wood, later editor of the Adventist Review) in Two Hands, No Wings (Review and Herald, 1968).
This lively, animated, nimble-minded friend has made a major contribution to Seventh-day Adventists. Apart from the students influenced by her teaching, her writings have helped shape a more gracious, balanced, and compassionate church.
Hearing that Miriam was calling it quits, someone asked me about a “replacement.” But there’ll be no replacement--no one can replace Miriam Wood.