What kinds of women do you find fascinating? Do you like old Hollywood stars or local heroines? Do you gravitate toward talk-show strength or news anchor intellect? How about favorite teachers, historical figures or perhaps your own mother? Or rather, do you admire and emulate your friends, older women at church or strong women in your workplace?
Did you ever think about it? Who are your personal “stars” and why?
One of my all-time favorite women was a pastor’s wife named Susie, not her real name, but the affectionate term her pastor husband bestowed on her from an old song written by Eddie Cantor in 1925:
I have got a sweetie known as Susie
In the words of Shakespeare she's a "wow"
Though all of you may know her, too
I'd like to shout right now
If you knew Susie, like I know Susie
Oh! Oh! Oh! What a girl!
There's none so classy
As this fair lassie
Oh! Oh! What a girl!
These light-hearted words pretty much sum up my friend and mentor Susie.
Oh! What a girl!
She was my age when I met her, a sixty-something woman who was warm and engaging, welcoming and joyful. She could easily be brought to tears of laughter when something was genuinely funny. She could also be overcome with tears of sorrow when talk turned to the troubles of this life.
At the time, I was twenty-two and I thought we had only one thing in common – our husbands. Like Paul and Timothy, they worked together at our mission church, hers as pastor, mine as principal.
But what a mentor she became to me! I soon learned the value of inter-generational sharing, teaching and training in righteousness. As a Titus 2 older woman, Susie opened a treasure trove of gifts and funneled them to my naïve and prideful heart.
Oh! What a life!
Here’s a summation of lessons learned from her life’s story, to name a few:
- You can be born into wealth, but it can all be gone in a heartbeat – in her case, a car accident which claimed the lives of both her parents.
- You can be anywhere in the world, and still be dignified and elegant – she and her husband started the first mission compound in the African bush at Mwembeshi, Zambia. The home they built housed missionaries for decades.
- Let your love for Jesus shine and others will respond. When they left Africa the poorest of the poor - African bush people - gave Susie their highest honor, an enormous cow.
- True hospitality is classy and giving. She promptly threw a party for the entire village and they feasted for days on that beef, celebrating God’s goodness.
- People of God have troubles and sorrows, not picture-perfect lives. Susie was no exception: a childhood cut short, not gifted with children, and endless personal sacrifices as a missionary’s wife.
- Letting go of all you know to serve Jesus requires faith and trust, a little bit of humor and not taking yourself so seriously. Susie showed me how to wait for God, and to find joy in the life he gives you as it is happening.
- When you are at the end of your life, the only thing that matters is clinging in faith to Christ, and trusting in his promises.
I knew very little about world-class domestic life skills when I met Susie. After seven years, she had taught me a beautiful art called tole painting, gardening with love, award-winning cooking (she loved Julia Child), the art of listening (a work in progress still), how living in a third world country can be fulfilling, and what love in action at church looks like, even when it hurts you to the core. “Just bite your tongue!” she would say with vehemence and a smile, as much to herself as to me.
Oh! What a Lord!
God put us together, and I am so grateful! As I listened and learned from her, I saw her clutching and clinging to the Word of God with all her might, knowing fully she did nothing to earn or deserve God’s supreme grace to her.
And as a result, she modeled the life of a practical and resourceful Proverbs 31 woman, all the while being completely unconscious of this undeniable fact.
But lest you think I am painting only a “Saint Susie”, let me be the first to say I also witnessed how God’s girls can be sinners. Hard as it was, she often had to forgive herself and offer forgiveness to others. She let hurts go and thrust them to God, trusting in his work on the cross.
Her funeral verse summed up her life’s story.
Cling and let go.
A life lived for Jesus demonstrates aspects of both.
I thank the Lord for the up close and personal view of one of his “stars”, a woman of faith called Susie!
Who are your personal “stars” and why do you cling to them?