True Religion

August 19, 2008 at 10:17 am (A Slice of Life, Vignettes) (, , , )

When Nathaniel went to Tulsa last summer to “prepare a place” for me to join him when we were married, he moved in next door to a woman named Evelyn who had lost her husband of 57 years just one week earlier.  Nathaniel was able to help her and pray with her during that first month or so of grieving.  She took him in as if he were her own son. 


Once we were married and I joined Nathaniel in our new home, I got to know Evelyn, and she quickly adopted me as well.  Being a new wife in a new city knowing only one family within 100 miles, this lovely widow and I became fast friends.  We’d go for walks on our street, clip coupons and go on lunch dates every once in a while, or just sit in her living room and watch the birds fly around outside.  God’s timing in placing us next door to Evelyn was amazing—she had just lost her husband, and I had just gained mine.  She treasured my joy and excitement being newly married, and I had the opportunity to learn from her experience.  We encouraged each other in the Lord.


Hanging out with a 78 year-old was new territory for me.  At college I spent most of my days surrounded by people my age.  I’d been thinking about the verse in James that says “True and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  I realized that most of my Christian life had been focused on avoiding the stains of the world, and that I’d pretty nearly neglected the part about caring for those in need. I suppose God decided it was time for me to learn to love—to catch a glimpse of what it’s like to practice true religion—so He put me next door to a needy widow!  It amazed me how much it meant to her that I would come and visit her every few days.  On more than one occasion I got to hold her hand while she cried.  She would repeatedly tell me that the Lord Jesus was the only one keeping her going since her husband died.  And she told me she didn’t know where she’d be without friends like Nathaniel and I.  Indeed, I’d been missing out on real joy and real love when I was in college just doing my thing, having good, clean fun with my Christian friends.  God has taught me so much through Evelyn. 


Eight months or so after I’d gotten to know Evelyn, her health took a turn for the worse.  She couldn’t manage her home by herself, and so her family moved her to a nursing home, where she’s been for about 4 months now.  When she got into the nursing home, she was capable of dressing and feeding and cleaning herself.  She was perfectly autonomous—she only needed supervision so that someone could help her in case she fell.  I’ve continued to visit her frequently, and it’s been a great blessing.  But it’s also been hard to see.  She has gradually lost all the abilities she had when she moved in to the nursing home.  Her eyesight is failing, she can no longer walk nor feed nor dress herself.  She has trusted in Jesus all this time, and has had a remarkably cheerful attitude.  There are times she’s prayed for me and brought tears to my eyes.  But physically, she’s slowly slipping away. 


I was out of town last week and had promised to bring her crayons and some coloring and puzzle books.  I only wish I’d gotten them to her sooner—last week she could have used them.  Today she tried, and it was a struggle.  She lacks the strength and dexterity needed to color or write.  I fed her oatmeal this morning, as well as held her glass of milk up to her face so that she could sip it through the straw.  I thought to myself that this must be good practice for whenever I have children one day.  Sadly, this is what happens as we grow old.  We’re humbled to the point of needing people to care for our most basic needs since we can no longer do it ourselves.  We end up as helpless as a baby—and most end up about as cranky.  Evelyn has been a good example in all of this by keeping her hope fixed on Christ, trusting in Him no matter how hard things get, no matter how much her body aches.  She longs to go home to her Savior and see her husband again.  She’s been gloomy lately, but never without hope.  And the time I spend with her is precious. 


Evelyn considers me her best friend.  I can’t express what that means to me.  She says I’m the best friend she’s ever had.  I’m a foolish, distracted little girl with a severe lack of initiative, but God has stretched me in this past year to be faithful in a few things—faithful to my husband and to making a pleasant home for him, and to this beautiful widow and to making her final stretch toward home a more pleasant one.  I can regretfully say I have been ignorant of true love and true religion up until this past year—godly living is so much more than avoiding sin.  But I rejoice that God has put Evelyn in my life, to show me what it’s like to be a faithful friend in any season of life, being a help to the helpless, and to finally practice and experience what my God calls “true religion”.  Soli Deo Gloria!


  1. Meredith :) said,

    Reading about you and Evelyn is so encouraging- I think it is easy for people to get so wrapped up in their own lives/problems that they fail to see others who are struggling and help them. I think it is so cool that you have gotten to be a positive influence on Evelyn and she on you. Yay! 🙂

  2. Rebekah said,

    I loved this post! I found it very interesting and encouraging!

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