"Ruth did something right. She lived her life in service of others."
"Drive is good, until you drive yourself into worn out, unhealthy or distanced from friends or family."
They don't build statues for women like Ruth, but maybe they should.
She's every woman, yet one in a million. A stay-at-home mom, piano teacher, master brownie chef, mender of clothes and hearts. Most days, at 92 years of age, her mind lingers to 1940-something. She no longer recognizes her five children or eight grandchildren. Her family spends time expressing their long goodbyes.
A Living Legacy
Ruth's granddaughter tells me she was an iron woman. Not a version of Iron Man – something better. Before dementia altered her mind, she was a master at ironing any piece of cloth she could get her hands on. Wrinkles straightened at her mere presence. She found joy in the personal, methodic routine of this simple chore. She ironed sheets and pillow cases and jeans and napkins. That's dedication.
Her family misses her stories of the farm where she grew up in West Virginia. She was raised in the gritty, pull-yourself-up and forget-about-indoor-plumbing Depression era. There was no time for depression of the emotional sort, though. Everyone had a job to do and every family member contributed hours of daily labor, according to their abilities and age.
In high school Ruth played basketball. After high school she became a Marine. During World War II she crawled inside military aircraft to complete electrical work. She went on to have five children: an engineer, a 30-year veteran of the Air Force, a doctor of education, a distribution manager and a neurologist.
Can you imagine teaching piano to six-year-olds? Ruth did that for years. With a degree in music, she spent endless patient hours sharing her passion with kids in the neighborhood.
Clearly, Ruth did something right. She lived her life in service of others. Her biggest investment wasn't career or property or possessions – it was people. People are her living legacy.
Full and Undivided Attention
Hearing about Ruth is a reminder that life is fleeting. Time is precious.
Relationships take time. That's a hard fact for someone like me.
Here's a confession from a workaholic. The first step to recovery is admitting there's a problem.
I launched the Rock Church in San Diego 13 years ago. It's been an incredible blessing and challenge. Devoted staff and volunteers have faithfully responded to God's calling on our lives to bless our community for Christ. As a pastor, I have taken on the challenge and responsibility to advance the church's vision with all I've got.
Every day has started at zero. Once my feet hit the floor in the morning, its go-go-go with the relentless drive to achieve. The goal is to have multiple tangible achievements at day's end – and if that doesn't happen, the day is not a success.
Well, strengths, in excess, can become weaknesses. Drive is good, until you drive yourself into worn out, unhealthy or distanced from friends or family.
Hebrews 4:9 teaches us: "There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience."
If you want to end your life as Ruth is doing – knowing she gave all she could for the people around her – then go take a vacation. Take your days off. Unplug. Make a concerted effort to give your family members your full and undivided attention.
At some point you will lose someone you love. Think today about how you'll look back at the time you spent with him or her – and harbor no regrets.