Dragons on my doorstep

by Sharon Hoffman

This is the prayer journal belonging to Ruby Prentiss. Ruby’s name is a fiction, taken from the Virtuous Woman chapter in Proverbs, but she is not a fiction. Rather, she is a real composite of women I have known and loved. I could have idealized her, made her a perfect example, one who would live up to the Prov­erbs 31 standard. But she would not have been real then, would she, and I don’t know that I would be interested in reading the journal of a perfect woman. No, Ruby is real, a woman in ministry facing all-too-real challenges, not unlike the ones ministry women all over the world experience. Through her journaling, you will most likely see some of yourself and real­ize that you are not alone.

Sitting dutifully on the second row every ser­vice at our church, I’m quite sure that to our congregation I appear to be as calm, cool, and collected as a graceful duck gliding on top of a smooth stream. Oh, my! If they all could see just beneath the water’s surface. I’m paddling like crazy!

There are potluck dinners, Sunday school lessons to prepare, projects that I oversee such as the canned goods pantry, mid-week food preparation for the supper before Bible studies, four children for whom I’m frantically run­ning in circles in my attempt to stay on top of their schedules; there’s my part-time job at the high school — sometimes the pressure can be almost unbearable.

I would not minimize the power of prayer, but sometimes life gets so overwhelming that I don’t even know how to pray. I wonder if anyone else can relate. Recently I overheard one of our women say, “Isn’t it a shame that our pastor’s wife works at the high school? Our last pastor’s wife always put our ladies’ fellowship first.” The weight of those critical words still brings a sting to my eyes. It evidently never occurred to that woman that her pastor’s wife might have to work for economic reasons, or that working as I do is a good way to meet those who need Christ.

Overhearing this spattering of criticism made me want to run to my room, slam the door, throw myself on my bed, and cry till I was sick. I’m ashamed to confess to myself, but the truth is: some fault-finding dragons still have the power to reduce me to a knee-quaking 16-year-old girl. I did cry a great deal while on my knees last night. Praise God for His healing touch. Today is a new day and for today I rest in the fact that He has me in this place, for this day. I rejoice that God will faithfully guide me and my family to just where He wants us to be as we seek to do His will.

I won’t rule out the possibility of dragon comments being overheard in our church lobby on any future Sunday, but I am so thankful for the delightful note today in our mailbox. Yes, it was sent and signed by a friend, but it’s as though God’s hand wrote every word to speak encouragement straight to my heart.

“Ruby, your teaching has blessed my life profoundly. Thank you so much for being willing to teach the Scriptures faithfully each week. Sometimes I feel that God has allowed you to be here at this time just for me! You are an awesome woman of God. I love and admire you dearly.”

Looking at her hand-made card on my kitchen fridge, I feel so loved and affirmed. I just may leave it there for a long, long time.

Lord, I acknowledge that you never prom­ised us an easy go of life in ministry. But you did promise to never leave nor forsake me. Thank you for always bringing us through the fire, especially when that fire is breathed from the mouths of dragons with a critical spirit. You do understand — I’m sure there were dragons in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Help me to forgive the dragons when my inclination is to slay them. Help me to leave the dragon slaying to You.

“… for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5