Friday, February 12, 2010

Pillars of the Community

She’s my wife, she’s my lover, she’s my best friend. But on top of all that – she’s my hero! If you know me well, you know I’m a man of strong beliefs and opinions. But this beautiful woman, who was once a fragile little girl did as much to change my thinking as any philosopher, teacher or preacher who ever crossed my path.

See, I grew up in a nuclear family, a thing that wasn’t as rare in those days as now. When I was in grade school the kid whose parents were divorced was the exception – today, the rule. But our family was not only intact, it was strong. And we came from sturdy stock. Our German heritage went back several generations, with hard working, God revering men who fought in wars and served as deacons of their church - real pillars of the community.

Suffice it to say that if ever there was one who could point to society and say, “It’s your fault!” that right would belong to Stephanie.

But a word often used to describe those staunch German pillar types is PROUD! And the problem with pride is that it can manifest in more than one way. It may present as a profound virtue, tempered with great humility and engendering excellence. Aristotle considered it the crown of all virtues. But on the other side of that coin can be found self-importance, smugness, arrogance and conceit. Heads or Tails? As a young man I tended more to the latter.

So how did Stephanie change my thinking? Oh, every married man or woman will testify to how their spouse changed their thinking. But I’m not talking about the normal, kissy smoochy stuff; or even that change in lifestyle we married folk grow to embrace. I’m talking about a change in the way I understand humanity itself.

See, I had always subscribed to the theory that people are a product of their heredity. Nature-versus-Nurture… I was a nature-boy! If you came from “good blood” you became a “good person”, but if you were born of “bad blood”… well, you get the picture. Even my friend Dave who 28 years ago served on staff with me at the church in Oklahoma City recognized it in me. I remember him saying, “You don’t believe people can change, do you?” I had to admit he was right.

But then I met Stephanie. Now it’s not my intention to lay out the qualities of her pedigree, or lack thereof. The truth is I don’t know that much about her heritage. But I do know that Stephanie came from the quintessential dysfunctional family. It's not needful to list the influences, circumstances or events of her life here. Suffice it to say that if ever there was one who could point to society and say, “It’s your fault!” that right would belong to Stephanie.

And yet, rather than blaming her environment she chose to change her environment. Rather than falling back on the excuse of heredity she drew a line in the sand and said, “This stops now!” And she provided a new heritage for her son, and her son’s sons. A Godly heritage. And the generations to follow will be able to say, we come from sturdy stock… pillars of the community!

So never again will I look at a man and say, “He can’t help it – look where he came from.” Never again will I think, “People can't change.” I have Stephanie to thank for that epiphany.

If you don’t know Stephanie, get to know her. You’ll be better because of it. And if you can figure out why God would grace me with such a precious gift, clue me in. And by the way, she’s not my hero because she changed my thinking. She’s my hero because she changed my World!

Nature or Nurture? I say Neither - But God, and Him glorified. That's the measure of a man... or in this case, a woman! Selah.

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