Sharon Cress is the director of Shepherdess International.—Via Shepherdess International
Timothy had Paul. Ruth had Naomi. Samson had Delilah. Samuel had Eli. Esther had Mordecai. Ahab had Jezebel. Bathsheba had David. What did all of these people have? They had someone who influenced the way their life path would go. Who is influencing you? Who has influenced you? Who are you listening to for sage counsel?
As a young pastoral wife, I needed a lot of positive influencing. I had not grown up in a pastoral family and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. In my love for a man, I was blinded to some extent as to exactly what marriage to a pastor would mean. In retrospect, this was probably to my benefit!
The Lord provides mentors and wise people to guide us in positive directions, if we will Jet them. The world also provides influences that automatically surround us daily, and sometimes it seems we are enveloped by Job's "friends" whose influence might not be to our best interest for developing Christ-like characters.
We need a teachable spirit to profit from the wisdom of those who have experienced life to a greater extent than we have. Early in my experience as a pastoral wife I learned the value of listening and learning from the "positive" influences the Lord provided for my admonition. I would like to pay tribute to four such pastoral wives, who not only shared their own gifts with me, but whose positive influence has guided me in the right direction so many times.
Vinna was a veteran pastoral wife when we met. She and her husband, Leslie, were almost ready to retire. This was their last pastorate. I arrived on the scene directly from the seminary, and Vinna must have shuddered when she first saw me. My skirts were way too short, my hair definitely had that "collegiate" look, and I surely did not fit the image the church had in mind for the "intern pastor's wife." I had already been "told" by another long-time pastoral wife that needed to shape up and act like a pastor's wife. The message wasn't conveyed in love and concern but along the lines of criticism and ridicule, and I paid it little heed.
Vinna was the most gracious pastoral wife I had ever known. She wore grace like many women wear fine perfume, She was never rude or boorish, and she made you think you were the most important person in the world when von were with her.
To paraphrase the Bible, Vinna was worth more to her husband's ministry than fine jewels. She complimented him and set a standard of loving concern for the other women in the church. She taught me tolerance and unconditional love for the unlovely. I learned it personally—she tolerated me. Not <<nly did she love me unconditionally, but she modeled for me, in a most unobtrusive way, what I could be if I were willing to change.
There were no lectures, just nurture. She spent time with me as if we were best friends. I wanted to be like her! I wanted to wear my own brand of the "grace" perfume that sweetly followed her wherever she went, By watching God's love unfold in her J ife, I was changed. She taught ID C how valuable people are to Jesus, and she treated each one as if they were the Master Himself. Thank you, Vinna. You taught me that people are the most important asset to Jesus.
When the invitation came from our conference for Jim and me to enter full-time evangelism, I was aghast. No way! Itinerate around through every backwoods bog in the state. I wanted to be home in my own bed at night. I had a life, you know. But the Lord had other plans, and Corea came into my life. She was almost 70 years old and deserved to retire to as much of the "good life" as this old world can offer. Jim and I were to be their last associates.
She told me stories of growing up in a migrant camp. The overseer paid her a penny for every 100 fruit flies she could kill. She never had any of the "nice" things other little girls had, but she did earn a few pennies each week in her extermination business and soon she bought a pair of shoes. Corea taught me self-sacrifice and patience. Her husband, Ken, was a great man of God and the Lord used him mightily, but he was not an ideal husband. Corea' s welfare and comfort was the last thing on his mind. He had evangelistic campaigns to conduct and souls to save. And that was okay with het. She never forgot her hard childhood and whatever life dealt, it couldn't be worse. She would accept it. I didn't accept anything in those days.
Although, he was not abusive, Ken was demanding. I well remember one night he came by just as he was going on the platform and said his shoe was untied and lifted his foot for her to tie it. I jumped between them and told him to tie it himself and be thankful he had two hands and could bend over! Gently, she moved me aside, and said it was okay. Some would call her a doormat and when it came to her husband, she probably was, but she patiently supported her pastor/ husband with no thought of her own needs. She trudged uncomplaining through years of successful evangelistic campaigns that won thousands to the Lord. Thank you, Corea, for teaching me self-sacrifice.
Leaving warm, sunny, Florida was very difficult for me. Moving to cold, dreary Berrien Springs, Michigan, presented real cultural and climate shock. However, because of this long move, I came into contact with someone who would show me that the Lord expected more from me than being a gracious, self-sacrificing nurturer. He expected me to share His love to those who didn't know Him. He expected me to be a soul winner. Marge had a burden to win souls to Jesus. She demonstrated that a pastoral wife should have a ministry of her own no matter what her "profession." Marge modeled the biblical principle of every lay person being a minister. She gave Bible studies and shared the good news of Jesus and His soon coming with hundreds of people. Marge taught me that it is important for a pastoral wife to have a ministry of her own and that it is imperative for every Christian, especially a pastoral wife, to bear fruit.
Marge wrote Bible lessons for both adults and children. Marge helped me realize a love for children's ministries and the importance of nurturing our little ones through church programming. Thank you, Marge, for giving me a passion for souls.
Merlo was an administrator's wife when we met. Her husband was my boss. Merlo was an individual that I loved from the moment we met. She was a Christian who modeled Seventh-day Adventist principles in her own unique way. After rearing her children, she returned to college to pursue a dedicated, brilliant career in nursing. She never put on airs or pretended to be anything other than the special person Jesus made her to be, She helped me understand that God makes each person special, and He values our individuality. Merlo taught me that it was okay to be me. And not just okay, but important to be myself, not the mirror image of someone else. She taught me individuality within a sanctified life. I don't think I have ever had a conversation with Merlo that she didn't talk about how eager she was for Jesus to come. And she meant it. Thank you, Merlo, for teaching me it's okay to be the person I am, and that we don't need to wear masks,
By beholding we are changed
By association with these four women I have changed for the better and become a better servant to Jesus and to His church. I do not believe it was by chance that we met. In His over-all good plan for our lives, Jesus places in our midst those who can spiritually strengthen us. We just have to be pliable.
It's always been easy for me to find someone who can tempt me to be critical, self-serving, rude, and inward-looking. And, unfortunately, until Jesus comes there will be times I will fall into these pits.
If we will just ask, Jesus will bring us into contact with those who can be uplifting to us. Who are you listening to? Who is influencing your life? Do the people who influence you reflect the nature of Jesus and bear His fruits? Or do they lead you down paths of criticism?
Thank you Vinna, Corea, Marge, and Merlo. You have brought me closer to Jesus by your own lives. And I imagine I am not the only one.