Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tuesday Nights at Ruth's

We were a ragtag group of four, navigating that strange time right out of college when new paths strung out in all directions and every decision threatened to unmoor us.  Our entry level jobs were not quite what we had in mind, but they were moving us toward our dreams.  We were all single, living alone, and clueless about what was next.

It was so many years ago.  I don't know how God arranged it, how God made it happen, perhaps a divine running into each other, perhaps now as I realize it, the initiative of a godly woman who sought what God wanted her to do now.  "What's next?"  As an empty nester, it was a new season for her as well.  Perhaps she had dreams of huge ministry opportunities.  But God gave her us.  "Really?" she must have asked Him.  "That is what you want me to do?"  It was not perhaps what she had in mind.  But here we were, and God placed us on her doorstep.

We met every Tuesday evening in her home for a two year pocket of time, before moving, marriage, jobs and grad school made it impossible for us to get together anymore.  It was not until many years later that I realized how much she sacrificed for it to happen.

And I will always be grateful.

Faithfulness to God mattered more to her than anything.  She quietly modeled that for each of us by how she lived, what she did, even in how she prayed and for what she prayed.  She did not follow some fantastic curriculum, but powerfully encouraged us in God's Word and listened to our small triumphs and the huge dilemmas of our young hearts.  Her love for the Bible was contagious.  Her love for us was one of the ways she lived it out.

She has no idea the impact those evenings had on us, no grasp of how God used her so mightily.  But He did.  She didn't have to spend that precious time with us.  But she did, faithfully.  And that made a lifelong impact on me.

Her next "assignment" was a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  Nurses in that hospital clamored around her on those long days when she came for treatment.  She lay on that gurney, bombarded with radiation, chemicals and pain, and sang.  Old hymns of the faith left blessing in those hallways.  "I've never seen anything like it," one nurse friend told me, so many years ago.  "She was such an encouragement to me in that ward.  She blessed us."

Mark the blameless man,
and behold the upright.

                    Psalm 37.37

Pursue people like that.  Study them.  Watch what they do, how they live out their faith, and how God  lives out in them.

 "Which are the people who have influenced us most?  Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us," wrote speaker and author Oswald Chambers (1874-1917).

Who has God put on your path today?
An encouraging word,
a sacrificial action,
an intentional kindness
              will never be forgotten.
God may very well use it
           to change a life.
Maybe even yours.

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