“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
– Matthew 23:12
JOYCE, THE NEVER FALTERING SAINT
Each year at a church that I attended in New Jersey, the Morrow United Methodist Church in Maplewood, they conduct a two-week yard sale. The largest I had ever seen and certainly larger than most. For well over eight decades the Morrow church was turned once a year into a department store. The sole purpose was to raise money to help others. For two weeks in July, you can go to this church and find anything you wanted: radios, books, any type of clothing, china, toys and even furniture. It was all there.
People from all over the community both gave and shopped. Each night of the sale it was exciting to see the many months of preparation pay off. Each night we left exhausted and tired. But we all worked. In the preparatory phase I was the truck driver, who went out with two youths and picked up the furniture from homes where the furniture was no longer needed. Each day, I was given a to-do list by Joyce Stibitz, who was the mastermind coordinator for this wonderful event. Each day, Joyce was tugged from here to there, all of us wanting to know what was next. And each day Joyce showed up with a smile and a certainty in her direction. Never faltering, Joyce kept moving us forward.
Because of my size and background, during the sales period I was put in charge by Joyce of periodically rounding up the money from all departments throughout the church. I would bring the money to the counting office and in the quiet there, I would talk to Joyce. In these private moments I discovered a richly faithful woman. Beyond being a powerful leader and coordinator, she held a faith that wasn’t movable by those more famous or by the latest theories. Her faith was simply to love Jesus.
Joyce didn’t have great theories or thoughts about theology. She just did what she thought was right. Sure, she wasn’t the best sayer of prayers, or the most eloquent speaker. She just did. She knew the Bible and taught Sunday school. She did wonderful things for her community. She was a force because she kept moving forward with a certain trust in the unseen. Joyce had a good life; her husband was extraordinarily supportive. She was a marvelous schoolteacher. She was extraordinary because she was wonderfully ordinary. She has no blemishes.
Her faith life was certain and humble. She went to church faithfully every Sunday. She served on committees. She ran the largest yard sale known, which in itself was a year-round job. Everyone knew her and she knew everyone. We all liked her.
She moved through life following the path provided by her faith. She wasn’t a famous person, because she didn’t see why that was important. On an evening where she knew I was exhausted from life, my studies, and the world, she told me, “You have done enough, go home. I will pray for you and your life.” A moment that told me she cared more about me than her mission. That moment when I was at my weakest. In a small gesture, her magnificent glory shone.
I always envy those with a certain faith. It makes them humble people. They aren’t looking for something that is bigger or better. They are certain their life is being led by God, and they know no other way to be.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman