Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prince of Peace! Control My Will -- Mary A.S. Barber or Mary S.B.D. Shindler



She evidently spoke the English language, but there is little more than that which is known about this poetess/hymnist from the 19th Century. Her first name was Mary, and she felt like praying, so she chose to let others know what was going on inside her when she wrote “Prince of Peace! Control My Will”. This woman felt a conviction that she needed to surrender herself to God, but admitted she struggled with some inner turmoil. Could she overcome the misgivings she sensed within herself? Her questions were probably no different than ones we might ask ourselves nearly two centuries later. Is it OK to believe God’s purposes are perfect, yet shrink from submitting to His way? This Mary wanted to say this was her dilemma, while drawing just a little closer to Him.

The Mary who called out to the Prince of Peace, and for His will and control in her life, was either Mary Ann Serrett Barber or Mary Stanley Bunce Dana Shindler. Mary Barber was a poetess from England, where many of her works were published in the Church of England Magazine, so when “Prince of Peace! Control My Will” appeared in that journal in 1838, she may well have been the source. We can assume this woman, in her mid-to-late 30s, was a member of the Church of England, though what other specific circumstances may have prompted her poem are unknown. Mary Shindler was likewise a poetess and the author of a handul of hymns, but in America, where she was in her mid-to-late 20s in 1838. She’d married Charles Dana in 1835and had a son by the time the words appeared in print, and shortly thereafter they all moved to Iowa, where she lost both her husband and son. (She later returned to her native South Carolina, where she was remarried, to a college professor named Robert Shindler.)Whether Mary was a 30-something Englishwoman or a 20-something American, this woman voiced a prayer. She longed for peace, amid a life that evidently left her feeling that some inner disorder was still present. She hints at or notes clearly this extant condition in the first three verses, so she plainly did not yet feel she’d conquered what troubled her. Sound familiar? Everybody needs order, but where does one find it?

Does anyone in their 20s or 30s ever think they’ve got it all figured out? If everyone is honest, they’d admit lots of hurdles bang their shins as they attempt to jump over the issues that block their paths. Mary Shindler and Mary Barber may have been an ocean apart, but there’s no reason to doubt that either could have authored the words of “Prince of Peace…”. The words this poetess used are so universal, that no one could feel they are foreign to his experience. Wherever I am on my timeline, I cannot divorce myself from certain reservations. I want my own agenda, but recognize that I can be indulgent and harmful to myself. Yet, can I be sure my own needs will be met if I turn to Him more completely?  Is it possible to have everything align on my timeline, with some nexus making it all work perfectly? This Mary, whether she was 25 or 35, had decided that she’d been too focused on herself, and was turning in another direction. She’d decided where, or who, nexus was. Exit doubt, enter God, was her message.    

Some information on the possible author of the hymn’s poetry is here: http://www.hymnary.org/text/prince_of_peace_control_my_will

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