I am thinking of my friend Denise Sproul today, four years now in glory with her Redeemer—while her family and friends are torn between being joyful for her and grateful for the years the Lord gave them together, and the sadness that comes with loss.I met Denise when I worked with her husband on the editorial staff at Ligonier Ministries. She opened her home and her heart to me many times, especially providing support by stepping in when I needed a babysitter for Hannah on days school was canceled or she was sick and I still needed to be in the office.
Denise glowed with a gratitude to the Lord for being able to be a wife and mother. Circumstances required me to be a working mom, and while I got my name in print and hobnobbed with the bigwigs, I never got a sense from her that she regretted the more important, more crucial role she was assigned as wife and mother. She was confident and content and delighted with her calling, so that when the time came that the Lord called me to the same “anonymity”, I knew it would not be a sacrifice to leave the glamour behind, that I was heading into “this is where I belong”. She was glorious contentment and bliss illustrated in the flesh for me.
Although my friend was delightfully feminine in all her ways, and loved sharing about how the Lord was ever growing her as a godly woman, she never assumed that all women had to look like her, act like her, do ladies’ devotionals like hers, bake like her, dress like her, adopt orphans like her. That was a good thing, because I was so very different than she, mostly in all of those ways! How she managed to influence me so deeply, despite our differences, was in the manner she placed the whole of her confidence and trust in the God of the Scriptures.
I learned more from my observation of Denise than anyone else that my identity is not in the things that I have done or will do, not in the trappings of dress patterns or table settings or having the right women’s authors on my shelf, but in Christ. If I am reflecting on him in all that I am, then I am reflecting him in all that I do, and he will receive the glory, whether my darning or decorating skills are HGTV-worthy or not.
“Her gentleness and warmth are genuine,” says Carol DeMar in a review of Denise’s collection of essays at Amazon. “Denise does not preach, nor does she simply give you an opinion; she declares the truth that comes from God’s Word and delivers it in a most graceful manner.”
I often wonder what she might say about the way in which women’s ministry has evolved over the past couple of years, primarily thanks to social media and the power track of women’s conferences. I’d give anything to hear her take on the explosion of books and speaking tours by wives of Christian leaders, she who never aspired to Christian stardom, despite the opportunities that opened up thanks to articles and Tending Your Garden. But I suspect it would be with the same Christlike conduct that she displayed in every interaction, graciously noting the gifts so many others have that she didn’t, allowing for the diverse and mysterious ways in which God chooses to use his people, humbly pointing out that the work she had before her was sufficient to glorify God. Because she was joyfully content in her calling to anonymity.
I’ll miss having that conversation with her, because I’m pretty sure when we reunite in heaven, we’ll have so many other more important things to talk about.
Portions of this first appeared as a blog post at Who Me?