A thoughtful note of encouragement needed and given leaves a lasting impression on all parties involved of the impact of our words and actions. ◊
The husband and wife had not been back to the popular island vacation spot in over 3 years. Busy lives with work, family, and other excursions had filled their days before this long-awaited getaway. On their first morning after settling into poolside lounge chairs overlooking a beautiful view of the beach, the couple ordered an iced tea from the outdoor bar hostess.
When the hostess returned with their drinks, she asked for the couple’s hotel room number and last name. Upon receiving the information, the hostess glanced up at the couple and asked with a curious hint of excitement in her voice, “Debbie and Mike?”
Not recognizing her immediately, the couple looked at the hostess and asked if they knew her, noting that she did look familiar though hidden under a large sun hat. The hostess said, “Let me show you something.” At which point she opened up her hostess billfold of menus and receipts. She pulled out a small piece of paper tucked away in the back of her billfold, an old receipt frayed around the edges. She handed it to the couple to read.
On the receipt was a hand-written personal note the vacationing woman had left for this same hostess at the end of their vacation 3 years earlier.
Both the woman and the hostess started crying. They joyfully hugged as the husband read the note incredulous at the odds of this little reunion. After reading the contents of the note, he too teared up and then hugged the hostess himself recalling the circumstances and recognizing the gift they all had been given.
What was in the note?
Merely a thoughtful message of encouragement to a young woman (married mother of two small children) who needed just that at a given point in time 3 years earlier. That note, written by my wife, and left with a very generous tip which we had both agreed to leave after interacting with this hostess during that week of our vacation, made a lasting impression on the hostess and now a lasting impression on us as we realize the impact of our words and actions.
This incident took place this past week and reminds me of the quality of character of the wife of my youth, whose formal first and middle name is Deborah Ruth. In our 40th year of marriage, even as we are studying together women in the Bible, I’m struck by the personal qualities now manifested by Debbie in her interactions with friends, family, neighbors and even strangers.
These qualities very much mirror the characteristics of the strong, godly women of her namesakes, Deborah and Ruth in the Old Testament:
- Deborah – the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. She lived and ruled over Israeli disputes in the 12th century B.C. before the era of Hebrew kings. She is arguably the most godly leader in the book of Judges. She was dedicated to raising up and sustaining those around her in the family of God’s people. She lived in the midst of moral and cultural debasement: “Again the Israelites did evil in eyes of the Lord” (Judges 4;1). Even so, Deborah evidences constant awareness of God and her words are full of Him and forthright encouragement. In Deborah’s context, her prophetic words are God’s message to a military commander facing a mighty obstacle. She communicates thoughtfully with power, humility, and poetic beauty in her “song” in Judges 5:2-31.
- Ruth – the widowed Moabite (non-Israelite) who despite tragedy and hardship shows great character, humility, and loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi. “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). Though an outsider she becomes a faithful follower of God and marries Boaz, a kind and noble relative of Naomi’s late husband. Ruth’s steadfast peace, kindness, diligent ethics, and quiet charm are characteristics that permeate her story. Her marriage union with Boaz produces a son, Obed, who would grow up to be the grandfather of King David.
My own Deborah Ruth, my wife, was ironically given these names by non-Christian parents. Her own religious upbringing was lacking yet her searching soul was open to the Christian Gospel message delivered by her fiancé – me. In my own Christian immaturity at the time, I had recalled a Biblical verse to “not be unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). I decided that my wife-to-be should be a Christ-follower too.
God is infinitely patient with all of us.
Debbie heard the Gospel message then and believed. My God became her God and we grew in faith together over these years. I’ve watched this young unchurched woman grow into a godly, wise, strong, bold, beautiful, gentle, sweet, kind, caring, faithful, knowledgeable, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.
She’s shared these qualities and characteristics with our own 3 children and their own spouses and now with our brood of 10 grandchildren.
And even to strangers, leaving a lasting impression and impact in the lives of those in distant lands.
Do you know a Deborah and Ruth?
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised… – Proverbs 31:26-31