Saint Henrietta

One of the great privileges of working in the church is getting to know everyday saints whose lives touch, surprise, and form you. Today I am reflecting on those who taught me through their example some aspect of discipleship. Those through whom I learned to pray more simply, to read the Bible for more than information, to choose people over achievement, to give time volunteering to assist others, and so much more. One of those people in my life was Henrietta.

In the late 1980s I pastored a small church in a shore community whose major employer was a yacht building company that made magnificent boats. Soon after a “luxury tax” came into effect people stopped buying these large boats, causing the yacht company to layoff large portions of their staff. The ripple effect of this was felt my families throughout the region. Soon there were families in our church struggling financially.

One Sunday morning one of those families came to me and told me how Henrietta had invited them to her trailer for dinner the night before. After a great meal and conversation together, as they were saying goodbye, Henrietta told them that she had bought too much at the grocery store and asked if they would help her by taking some of it. Then she proceeded to give them bag after bag of groceries.

The next Sunday another family came to me and told me they had dinner at Henrietta’s trailer the night before. As they were saying goodbye, “you won’t believe what she did!” They too came home with bags of groceries for the week ahead.

Soon Henrietta’s daughter came to me concerned that her mom didn’t have enough to be giving so much and asked if I would talk to her. I went to knock on Henrietta’s door and was invited in to hear her story. She was a widow probably in her 70s, retired, living off a small pension and social security. She was not rich by anyone’s standards. She lived in a modest trailer in the local trailer park.

She shared with me how God had placed this burden on her heart for those who were struggling, especially the “young families” in our church. She wanted to do something. Henrietta’s assessment of her situation was that she had been blessed with not just enough, but more than enough, and she felt called to share. Henrietta taught me a phrase that day I had never heard before but have since found out is very well-known: “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

Her biggest concern was not whether she could, but how she should help these families without insulting them. So she came up with this dinner idea where she would play the “silly old lady” and they would be “helping her” by taking these groceries off her hands. Brilliant! It was working.

Henrietta’s theology grew out of a knowledge of God’s abundance. She wasn’t looking at what she didn’t have, but rather what she did, and knew that there was enough to share. Through her example I learned the spiritual practice of giving – of your time, yourself, and your stuff – to those around you in need.

You probably have those people in your life as well, those who enriched your spiritual life through their example. I encourage you to join me today in reflecting upon them. Give God thanks for those He has placed in your life, who have helped you along The Way, from whom you have learned something about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, you could pray a prayer asking that you could be that person for someone else.

If a story comes to mind, hit the comment button and share it with me, or email it to me.

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