Spent a lovely Saturday morning a few days ago gathering with some women at my church to pray. As we were considering inspirational Christian women (thinking in line with last week’s International Women’s Day), I began to think of the women who have inspired me.
(As soon as I started writing this, I realize that many reading this will start thinking of those I may have left out!)
One particular group of women who have had a huge impact on my life have been the various Pastor’s Wives I have grown up with. The first one I remember was Betty, a Yorkshire woman, full of grit and determination. I had the huge privilege of having this amazing woman as my Pastor’s wife in 2 separate locations, one when I was a child, and another when I was an adult. As a child, she opened up her home to me, being very close to my mum (who was later to become a Pastor’s wife herself), and I enjoyed the friendship of the entire family – and still do. Betty gave of herself lavishly, and was an amazing example of genuine hospitality.
Then there was Anne, another blunt-speaking young woman from Yorkshire, who was immensely practical and creative. She put on Children’s Bible Musicals, without any previous experience, very successfully. I remember clearly that each week she would have one day when she focussed on the family ironing, and spent this time praying and seeking God for how to proceed with that week’s rehearsals. It taught me that God works in our lives one step at a time, and we need to seek His face for each step. Yet so often we demand to know the whole itinerary up front.
Then there was Ruth, a French Canadian who graciously allowed me both the gift of space and her timely wisdom when I started dating her lodger! Gentle and focussed, she encouraged us to have a Godly courtship which stood the test of time, and the pain of separation due to studying hundreds of miles apart. And yes, I did marry that lodger!
There have been several others, of course, but in the last few years it has been my joy to work alongside and mentor other young women, quite a few of whom have gone onto ministry roles, some as Pastor’s wives, some latterly as ministers in their own right. The role has obviously changed over the years, but last Saturday, in prayer with the women of my church , it struck us how many women had inspired us who were actually either Sunday School teachers or Pastor’s wives. There is no “one-size-fits-all” for these incredible women; each one forges out their influence and ministry in the arenas God has chosen for them. Many struggle with the huge expectations of congregations, who seem intent on letting them know exactly how wonderful the last incumbent was.
I just wanted to acknowledge a massive debt of gratitude to each woman who has taken the time to encourage me, inspire me, teach me and spend lavishly of themselves, often at great cost, to make me the person I am today.
Maybe today you could take a moment to find a way to encourage and thank someone who has been a blessing to you. It might surprise you just how rare such thanks often are – some women minister with never a word of encouragement, going months, sometimes even years, in a gratitude vacuum. Don’t leave it too long before you change that …