The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:9
I met her 22 years ago. My marriage had just fallen apart; I was a desperate, fearful, emotional mess. For months I had been in survival mode, only going through the motions, trying to make it through another day.
I had been out of church for years, an unintentional prodigal child. I didn’t intend to stray from my faith, the Lord and His church; but I did. It all started with one reason on one Sunday, which became another and another, until I stopped going altogether. When the bottom fell out of my world, I immediately recognized all my reasoning as shallow excuses before a Holy God. I knew the only way I would make it through this nightmare was to be reconciled with the Lord. I fell on my face in repentance and returned to church.
At the invitation of a coworker, I visited a ladies’ Sunday school class. From the start, it was a comfortable environment. I was deeply touched when a few older women shared that they had heard of my situation and had been praying for me. I immediately felt a connection with one of the ladies, Miss J.
Miss J shared words of encouragement, gave me a loving hug and pledged to pray for me. A couple of days later, I received an encouraging card from her in the mail. Later in the week she called. And she listened. When I was finished talking, and crying, Miss J shared comforting words of wisdom. She pointed me to Scripture and shared how to apply it to my situation. She then did something no one else had ever done for me: she prayed with me. Out loud, with intensity, believing God was hearing her prayers. Fresh tears rolled down my face as she lifted my heartache, fears and anxieties to the Lord. Sweet, powerful words. By the time our conversation ended, I felt peaceful, encouraged and empowered. My hope was renewed and a treasured friendship was born.
Miss J walked me through those dark days, and countless more difficulties over the years. She encourages me to stay in the Word, challenges me to trust the Lord, and reproves me when my attitude needs course correction. While she allows me to vent and work through an issue, I quickly learned when my carrying-on has carried-on a bit too long. She stops me in mid-sentence with “Now, we are not going there. “ Her gentle, but firm and loving tone silences me every time.
I have learned so much from listening and observing Miss J. I watch her invest in the lives of others. She listens intensely, loves genuinely and continually exercises her gift of mercy. She prays faithfully. If she senses the Holy Spirit is prompting her to pray, she will stop at that very moment and pray, even for a stranger. She shares her own experiences as evidence of God’s faithfulness. She is aware of her circle of influence and always takes the opportunity to encourage others, especially in their relationship with Christ. She serves quietly and humbly.
As our Sunday school class matriarch, Miss J lives out Titus 2:3-5. By example, she teaches us how to conduct ourselves in reverence, do what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord, and be better wives, mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. Her words of wisdom are greatly respected; her counsel widely received. When she instructs you to “go into your watchtower, to wait and see what the Lord will do,” she means it. (Believe me, if you leave your watchtower, she will call you on it!) When necessary, she has quietly and discreetly disciplined us. (Even a grown woman will spit out her gum when Miss J tells her that gum-chewing in worship is not appropriate!) While health issues currently keep Miss J from attending class on a regular basis, she is always close to our hearts. We have taken on her mantle and are putting into action the lessons we have learned.
I am so grateful for Miss J’s example; I am grateful she challenges me to be an example to others. Now, I want to challenge you. Are you aware of your circle of influence? Are you using your gifts and talents in that circle of influence? Do you follow through when you tell someone you will pray for them? Are you willing to pray with them? Do you share your story of God’s faithfulness in your life? Do you invest in the lives of the next generation? Will you be found faithful?
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17