By Scott Wagoner
I am inspired by people who see their careers as more than just a way to make a living. They will gladly accept a paycheck that comes with fulfilling their responsibilities, but the job they do is about more than just getting paid. The job they do fulfills a greater calling in their life.
In the interest of full disclosure, the person that inspired this article is my wife, Lynda Wagoner. I can honestly say that I am not writing about her as a way to win brownie points or because I forgot an anniversary and thus, I have some making up to do. Lynda inspires me because of her dedication to her calling,
allowing her Quaker faith to guide her to faithfully walk in the way of Jesus.
Lynda and I have been married for thirty years this July (smartest decision I ever made). In my journey as a pastoral minister, she has been a faithful and encouraging partner. Even in her role as a “pastor’s wife,” she has never given up her unique identity and sense of call. She has always worked outside the home and fulfilled God’s special call on her life in this world.
Lynda graduated with a B.S and a M.S in Nursing from Ball State University. She is also a Certified Lactation Consultant. For the past eight years, she has taken all her skills, gifts, talents, education and applied them towards helping an often much forgotten segment of society — poor and underresourced mothers.
Lynda works for the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services in High Point, North Carolina, as a Home Visiting Nurse for mothers and new babies. In her work, she follows mothers during their time of pregnancy and after the birth of the babies. Her clients are often on Medicaid and/or on public assistance. Every day she visits young mothers in their homes and brings much needed encouragement, information, resources and provides hope in a sometimes
seemingly hopeless situation.
On an average week, Lynda makes anywhere from 30-35 home visits. These visits may include those who have lived in High Point all their lives as well as families that are completely new to the area. A World Relief office is located in High Point, and therefore there is an unusually high number of refugee families living in the area: from Nepal, Burma, Sudan, Somalia, Vietnam and Iraq. Along with the diverse ethnicity, Lynda regularly interacts with families from other religious traditions. In particular, she will often meet with families who are of the Muslim tradition. Even with the fear and misunderstanding that prevails among many regarding the Muslim faith, Lynda has always experienced nothing but deep acceptance and rich hospitality from these families.
When asked how her spiritual journey shaped and influenced her work and her sense of call, she explained her call is to simply walk in the way of Jesus and
see her work from a justice perspective. For Lynda, her vocation is not just about providing resources and education, but includes providing “justice for all” for those who may not have access to good healthcare and resources.
Lynda acknowledged that her own Quaker journey informs her “that of God” is in everyone. Through this perspective, she is able to provide care for everyone she meets regardless of who they are or their religious tradition. For Lynda, everyone is created in God’s image and deserving of honor, respect and quality care.
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— Prayer by Teresa of Avila
With this testimony, my friends, my wife fulfills her calling each day. She does it with grace, empathy, patience and unbelievable compassion for those she meets. She does it with a deep sense of passion for justice, as well as a deep commitment to the dignity of others. Hers is a hard job. The paperwork and
local government bureaucracy can be draining. But in spite of all that, her deep sense of call and her commitment to the way of Jesus propels her forward and keeps her on the front lines of human need.
As I reflect upon Lynda’s public testimony, I find that my faith is inspired in three ways.
First, I am reminded that we don’t have to leave our faith at the meetinghouse door when we head to the parking lot and drive home.
It is so easy to compartmentalize faith and have a “meeting for worship” life and an “everyday life.” With Lynda nothing gets compartmentalized. All that she is and does is part of her calling and God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world.
When compartmentalizing is done, spiritual life ceases to grow and flourish. Faith, then, is built largely around religious activity and making sure the institutional “I’s” get dotted and the “T’s” get crossed. But when our vision is expanded to see everyday life as part of God’s universal ministry, as is Lynda’s testimony, everything that is done bears the weight of God’s glory and love. Then, we become God’s ministers in all we do, and all of life becomes a sacramental experience.
Second, I am reminded that faith can be shared without words. Many times it’s our actions that speak the loudest.
Lynda is not comfortable talking about herself or her faith; but she is very comfortable living out her faith through her actions. Often it is assumed a person’s faith is only valid by a verbal testimony. Faith is meant to spoken by our actions. Many folks provide a vibrant witness in such a way their lives communicate the love and grace of God without a single word.
Lynda’s unconditional acceptance of her clients as well her deep empathy and patience communicates the presence of God. In fact, as one who seeks to follow in the way of Jesus, Lynda brings Christ’s presence into her work. In each moment, she is the hands and feet of Jesus. The young mothers and refugee families may not know it, but they are being served and loved in that moment by the Living Christ.
With this kind of public testimony, the mystical presence of the Resurrected Christ works. Wherever we faithfully show up through our actions, so does Christ. The often used Quaker phrase, “Let your life speak” is never out of date and can be such a powerful way to communicate the love of God. Our testimony should never just be a verbal statement. Our lives have tremendous possibilities of becoming living testimonies that can often speak so much more powerfully than words.
I am reminded of how God’s dream of “on earth as it is in heaven” is demonstrated through the living of one’s faith. God didn’t ask the world to come to him. God came to the world in the form of a person — Jesus. We call this the incarnation. Through us, God continues to come to the world as we incarnate the grace, mercy and presence of God. As God came to our brokenness in order to bring wholeness, we enter into the world’s brokenness in order to bring wholeness and healing. We enter into unjust systems in order to bring justice. We enter into disillusioned lives and despairing circumstances in order to bring hope and healing. We enter into hopeless situations in order to manifest the hope and promises of God. We enter into people’s confusion and fearful state in order to bring a measure of peace. We are the shalom-bringers. We are the peacemakers. We are the presence of God incarnate. We are the kingdom of God in action. Through our faithfulness, we bring to fruition that wonderful promise in the Lord’s Prayer: “On earth as it in heaven.” We bring heaven down to earth.
Those whose faith is evident in their action are living reminders of Teresa’s words. We are inspired when we see these folks live such faithful lives and the world is a better place because of their faithfulness.
I am blessed to be sharing my life with one such example.