Have you ever wondered when your purpose (s) took root? Purpose as per dictionary: goal, aim, a determination, resolution, desired result. Did you set goals? Were you aware of the importance of purpose? I wasn’t. Purpose deserves another look.
Although I have always been an extrovert with an in-born urgency to finish tasks, I still had low self-esteem. So being confident of finishing what you start, following directions and learning how to survive is no guarantee that one’s self esteem is adequate or that purpose is part of it.
Did dad’s abrupt leaving possibly contribute to my own future purposes? I know his leaving woke me up to life. In the midst of this thought process I read a Mother’s Day message on Face Book from youngest son, Roger. “Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Ruth Ward. You are an inspiration to us all, especially in the month or so since we said goodbye to dad. Keep telling stories and writing”. Very encouraging. I contemplated; do I have more stories that would help others? Mentally, I sorted through people and situations to ascertain the sources of my purposes.
When Dad deserted us, I lost my best friend. I grieved his absence. As I looked back to age 8-11, I was certain that I was his favorite, but no one else seemed to think so. I spent as much time as possible with him when he was home on the weekends. He was an avid reader and while he was reading, I’d either comb his hair or sit on his lap. I was certain that I had the smartest, strongest and best daddy in the world and I wanted to marry someone just like him.
Even though I had five siblings, I was an imaginative loner with an invisible friend. Jane and Shirley, close in age shared common interests and a bedroom; Mac and John shared a bedroom.; Mom and Dad had the 3rd bedroom. David was in a crib. So, where did I sleep? For a while it was at least upstairs above the staircase, until David graduating out of the crib took my space. Then my bed room moved downstairs under the stair case where it was very dark. Like any 8-10 year-old, electrical storms frightened me. When wind whipped through the huge Ash tree on the side of the house where I slept, I imagined for sure that it would crash across my bed.
My bed was then moved to the sewing room next to the kitchen, still quite alone but not as dark and with some perks. I didn’t miss anything. My sisters saying goodbye to boyfriends; from my room I could see down the road that Dad traveled home late on Friday nights. I recognized his car’s head lights and watched until they showed up. I was the first one to greet him. The highlight of my week was when Dad’s car pulled up in front of the house after a one or two-week salesman trip. The others didn’t know he often brought me a candy bar because I didn’t share.
I was very lonely and confused about life which probably readied me for eventually becoming a counselor. When I was 14, we moved to another rented farm house from fall to December, when we hastily moved to the deserted 3-room shack. Learning that Jesus wanted to be our personal friend really appealed to me because I had just lost my best friend and needed a new one. I began to read the Bible and learn the value of prayer. The seeds of purpose were being sown.
During the close of my Junior year in high school, we were obligated to participate in a new program--career day. Many of my friends were looking at colleges and knew what they wanted to do. I was a B+ student and assumed I wasn’t smart enough for college even though I had taken the college prep course with business and music theory as electives. When my interviewer asked to see my career choice and plans, I had written nothing. All I could say was “I want to help people.” He smiled. “Can you elaborate?” “I think I want to be a pastor’s wife”, I stammered, a little embarrassed. “Well, I have no counsel for that goal”, he admitted. In embryo was purpose.
Sister, Jane, who had married Dick and were preparing for a career in foreign missions had arrived for a visit as I got home from school on Career Day. Of all things, Dick quizzed me about what I wanted to do with my life. “Help people and I think as a pastor’s wife”, I said more confidently. “I know just the school for you--Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago.” Being a PK (preacher’s kid) near Chicago, he was very familiar with MBI. I can remember explicitly what he said: “Moody prepares pastors and girls planning on marrying pastors. And the school is tuition free.” I had no money, no scholarships, so knew I’d have to support myself. What a timely, inquisitive visit. I wrote for an application. Another preparation for purpose.
I chose the General Bible course because I had no other focus, which was exactly what I needed for the purpose God had designed for me, that as yet, I knew not of.
I turned 18 in May, graduated from high school In June and in August boarded a train along with a trunk carrying my few belongings and headed to the Windy City. I was scared to death. But I had peace about my decision.
As I wrote in a previous blog, one of the first people I met was Jim Ward, from Odessa, Texas. He got to Moody haphazardly about like I did. He finished high school in Odessa, Texas and while visiting his grandparents in California that summer, decided to enroll in a community college which was free and study auto mechanics. He loved to repair cars, bikes, anything. He attended a church that had a vibrant youth ministry. Because he was older than the young people, they assumed he was preparing for the ministry. But, becoming a pastor hadn’t entered his mind at that time, but it certainly planted the seed into his long-range purpose. George Santa, the leader of the group, asked him what he planned to do after his year of auto mechanics. Jim said, “I have no plans.” I know a good school for you. Are you familiar with Moody Bible Institute? “No,” Jim said. George told him that Moody was tuition free and a super preliminary school which prepared students spiritually for whatever they decided to do. “It’s late, but I think I could get you into MBI.” George enrolled him at the last minute over the phone into the pastor’s course.
That’s how North met South. I’d never seen cowboy boots; his were black and yellow and went well with his coveralls. His southern accent was entertaining to all of us. I’d never heard of oil wells and real-live cowboys. I liked Gene Autry in the movies. His group of guy friends soon named him Tex. We were casual friends and found ourselves in the same groups of required special assignments--Japanese visitation, jail ministry, hospital visitation, rescue mission--for personal experience to prepare us for serving the Lord. And to cap it off, we were assigned the same evening meal table. So, we were getting acquainted. He was elected the president of our class and wanted a date for our class meeting. He asked me if I’d go. I felt like he was more like a brother, friendly, always smiling and polite. I agreed to go. But at the end of that night, I knew that he was for me. The Lord must surely have been smiling as these two lives were falling into place as His purposes were germinating.
Jim never questioned that he was in the right place taking the right course. He had no idea he’d be studying Greek and Hebrew. But as he delved into serious studies of the scripture, he definitely felt a special calling to prepare for the ministry. The irony is, Jim told me that when he graduated from high school as an honor student he had said “I’ll never read another book.” He committed himself to the seven years of further schooling with lots of reading after 3 years at Moody to get prepared. Seven of those years occurred after we were married. When he finished, we had four children--our oldest was 11 and our youngest was 5. He was a marvelous Pastor who served several congregations over 50 years. We were a team.
5. Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure. 6.The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; Surely, I have a delightful inheritance.
7. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me: Even at night my heart instructs me. 8.I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9.Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices…11. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. Psalm 16:5-9 and v. 11 (NIV)
The Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me.” II Sam 22:19-20 (NIV)
A friend said this week: God puts the right people and situations in your path to get you to where He wants to take you. Please feel free to comment or email.