How Favoritism Fractures

by | Sep 17, 2012 | Uncategorized

The top drawer of my Grandmother’s dresser, it was a favorite weekend hangout. Rhinestone pendants and baubles lying in open boxes from department stores were a feast for curious eyes. I sashayed back and forth, posing faux pearls in the mirror of my adolescence, dreaming they might be mine one day.

Over the years, she put the lid on each box and slid them into my hands. Now, every time I open the top drawer of my dresser, I see her smile in a silver necklace laying next to the one my daughter gave me.

In the early years as missionaries, H and I returned home on furlough periodically to rest from work, cultivate relationships and raise support. We stood in bright lights of the church of our youth, hung our heads low at the touch of our pastor’s prayers, and embraced the hug of community.

On one of those visits, a friend who won the lottery tells me I shouldn’t wear jewelry like that. “It might give people the wrong idea,” she whispers at the front of the church. “After all, you’re asking for financial support and that necklace makes me think you don’t need money.”

I let her know it’s my grandmothers, that I wear it because it reminds me of her. It’s not real diamonds, just costume.

It’s the first of many examples of the way well-meaning people judge me as a pastor’s wife. My first test about whether I will allow what others think about me to define who I am?

I keep wearing my grandmother’s jewelry.

And I want to be James telling my friend to wipe the fog from the lens of her rose-colored glasses (James 2) but my soul lens is out of focus too. When I show favoritism toward people who are like me, I do not love my neighbor as myself.

Years later, my daughter clasps a silver strand around my neck. Uses money she earns serving chicken with a smile and “it’s my pleasure” to make her mother smile under the Christmas tree.

An embossed pendant of a branched bird shines on my chest. It’s not just a thoughtful gift from my daughter. It’s a love letter from God. One in a collection of metaphors with birds he uses to get my attention. Metaphors she doesn’t know about.

“Turn it over,” she instructs with pride. Matthew 6:26, it etches slight on the back.

I rub my fingers over the branches; feel the indents of scripture hanging around my neck. And I think about how I wear the promise hanging from heart every day since I stood before my friend with the smile of good intention.

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. ~Matthew 6:26, MSG

Counting gifts with Ann in thankfulness for the way God takes care of our needs, never forgets about us even in silence. And for the way He never diminishes our dignity.

Amber’s, word prompt, necklace, in her Monday posts about Writing and Concrete Abstractions, inspired this post.

Linking with dear friends: Laura, Michelle, Jen and Eileen, Just Write and Mercy(Ink).

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  1. Kathy Schwanke

    I love your Jesus-response to your friend. Grace abounds. The necklace is absolutely beautiful!!! I think of how often I have spoken in ignorance and unawareness of how my words came across, or that they came from some fear I didn’t know how to counter at the time. Oh for grace. You expressed it so wonderfully. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Kathy, quick to speak and slow to listen. My husband is good at doing the opposite, he’s been a good role-model for which I am so grateful. Thankful you stopped by.

  2. Mari

    Glad you chose to keep wearing your granny’s jewels 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aww, thanks Mari. I’ve had new pastors wives come to me and ask me what they should do and my response is, “be yourself.”

  3. altarofheaven

    i needed to hear this tonight. Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad you emailed me lovely friend. I’m sending you my love and responding soon.

  4. Sandra Heska King

    You wear Him well. Precious story.

  5. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Beautiful reflection… reminds me of my own dreaming times over my mom’s and grandmother’s costume jewelry too. And of worrying about looking too pretentious when they gave me some real pieces later on… how the gift of simple jewels costume or not became a tradition of love, celebration of special birthdays. And how my sister and I sat together divvying up some of the costume pieces we’d loved, after mom’s death. I’m so glad you were able to stay true to your own in this, Shelly. A jewel in His crown, a royal diadem in his hand, a pearl of great price….mmm, something tells me God loves to make us shine like those jewels he created and that even such trinkets are his gift of joy, especially when worn with grace and love.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I love how you talked about your own story here Pam. It’s such a lovely picture. And really, there is so much temptation to fall into the trap of being the person you think others expect you to be. I did think about taking off the jewelry long and hard and then I felt that I had to be true to myself. That we are all responsible for how we judge others, but not for the judgment itself, unless it is a conviction of the Holy Spirit.

  6. Ben Nelson

    Wonderful story.
    I long for the day when we the church would not give to ministry out of sympathy – ‘o that poor missionary couple’ – but rather out of honor. Those who minister are worthy of double honor.
    I could rant here, but i will restrain myself.

    The necklace is beautiful and full of greater value than any could pay for it.
    thanks for sharing this story.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m thankful for your thoughts about ministry Ben. Unfortunately, I think you are in the minority but I am so grateful for those, like you, who do honor leaders that sacrifice so much for what they do. It’s a privilege, whether people take note or not. It’s all for Him and the rewards are far beyond my words. So thankful you left a comment, I appreciate it.

    • Jillie

      You say it well, Ben. My thoughts entirely. (Personally, I’d like to hear your rant. Sure it would contain some ‘nuggets of gold’ itself). Am proud of Shelly determining to be herself, and wear those cherished memories and lessons around her neck, and close to her heart.

      • Ben Nelson

        I am determined to reserve my rants for my own blog so folks get them on a voluntary basis – LOL

  7. Lisa notes...

    Appearances can be so deceiving, and it’s so easy to be deceived into thinking we need to keep them. Proud of you for wearing your grandmother’s necklace! Love wins.

    A beautiful story and one for me to reflect on in a variety of ways today. Thanks, Shelly.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Yes, love does win doesn’t it? I’m learning it’s the best response, in all circumstances.

  8. Mary Beth

    I love how this story connected loved ones from your past with loved ones from your right now. How God weaves it all together to teach us.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s funny the way a word prompt does that. Restores lost memories and connects them to the present for me. Love the way God speaks.

  9. Chelle

    I love that you carry your Grandmother and her lessons with you, whether you are wearing them or not. I love that you live “There is far more to your life….” so should we all.
    Thank you for this post.
    Peace and good to you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I owe a debt of gratitude to my grandparents for they way they heaped love and invested their lives over a little girl that lived in messy world with her mother.

  10. Tereasa

    Oh, the peace of knowing who we are in Christ. It is through this peace that we are able to love and not show favoritism.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Peace with who we are, resting and letting go of comparing ourselves to others – it’s true freedom.

  11. monicasharman

    Thank you for sharing the beauty (yours, your daughter’s, the necklace’s, God’s). Keep wearing it. Just keep on wearing it.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Monica, so thankful for your visit. I’ve seen you around the blogosphere and appreciate you coming by. And yes, I can’t be anything but myself can I?

  12. elliott

    I love when our kids can experience being a part of God loving on another…especially the mom:) oh the power of the tongue…God and I have been long on training this monster…one tongue…2 ears…allowing God to transform me to use my ears more and my tongue less. blessings to you~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Ro. It’s been a long, slow and painful growth in that area for me. My husband is a good role model for me.

  13. Danise Jurado

    Such a beautiful post! I am so glad you kept wearing your grandmothers jewelry! So often opinions just simply do not need to be shared… The necklace your daughter gave to you and the story (verse) behind it is precious and priceless! stopping by from Hear it Use it today! Blessings

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I agree, sometimes we don’t need to say what we think and just allow God to be the author of conviction when He deems it necessary. I’m learning that in motherhood as well.

  14. Gail

    When we were on the mission field, my sister gave me a very expensive purse for Christmas. My first thought was how much she’d spent and it even crossed my mind that perhaps I should take it back and spend the money more frugally. But I felt like the Lord showed me I was supposed to enjoy this gift I would never give myself.
    There will always be people who judge people in ministry by standards that they don’t apply to themselves. Fortunately, there are lots of good folks too!
    What a blessing to have your grandmother’s jewelry with all the memories attached, and what a wonderful gift from your daughter. Thanks for sharing this sweet story.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m not sure why the world associates a poverty mentality with being in ministry. It’s not really biblical. And the guilt that comes along with accepting gifts isn’t either. Thanks for your comments Gail, I enjoyed your thoughts on this subject.

  15. kelliwoodford

    Oh, your theme here really smirks at me with familiarity.
    This seems to be the exact lesson I am learning right now — do we ever stop learning it?? Love that translation of Matt. 6:26, “careless in the care of God.”
    Beautiful, Shelly.
    (Been praying for your hubby’s sermon, hope it went well this weekend!)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It did go well Kelli. Thanks for praying. I felt the favor of the Lord in the eyes of the people and their kind words of affirmation. He is faithful.
      And I do love that translation as well. It speaks to my heart.

  16. Christina

    Thanks for this and the encouragement to live for Him and His glory. We all look at one another judging, weighing scales, and eyes should be on Him and the work He is doing. Love the necklace:)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love that my daughter picked it out all on her own. How she knows what I love. It’s the greatest gift.

  17. Ashley Larkin

    I found you through The Runamuck this morning. Bless you and your telling of these past and present stories. Thank you for sharing the way you walked in your beauty — the beauty of the One who cares for us so much better even than the birds of the sky and field.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Ashley, I think we were on each others sites at the same time. I enjoyed your story too. Love Amber’s new Monday series on writing, she inspires me.

  18. kelli- AdventurezInChildRearing

    precious! thank you for sharing 😉

  19. enthusiasticallydawn

    Beautiful. I am so glad I came across your place while visiting Wellspring! Tender. All of us are fragile…why do we not really just see more like Him. Lord help us too…I wrote this week about the tongue but it was based on some things people said recently and how it made me feel…I would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      So glad to connect with you Dawn and I look forward to reading your post as well.

  20. Diana Trautwein

    Lovely necklace, lovely story. Thanks, Shelly.

  21. Kathleen Jaeger

    This story of the comment about the necklace reminds me of a missionary we worked alongside for a summer in NYC telling us that someone gave him a nice car — a luxury car – to help him with his ministry. Too many people thought he was spending his support money unwisely. It was a gift. He humbly gave it back or gave it away (don’t remember). He humbly told us the story as we drove around NYC in his beat-up mini-van. To see his humble response in face of judgment has stayed with me all these years. His car. Your necklace — a beautiful gift from your grandmother. Gifts. Wonderful gifts from the Father. May I judge not from the outside appearance.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      We had the same thing happen. My husbands parents gave us a car they had, an old Cadillac that was in good shape. People gave us a hard time for driving a Cadillac as missionaries. I guess they would rather us drive a beaten up undependable vehicle than to be driving something safe and dependable. It doesn’t make sense does it? We just kept driving that car until it had mechanical problems.

  22. eil1een

    Oh, Shelly, you took me back to when I used to search through my grandma and my mom’s top dresser drawer and try on their “flashy” jewelry. My son and I were discussing this same topic the other day. The “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” We are so quick sometimes to pass judgement on others. Great post. Thanks for linking up, friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s so fun to see how many of us enjoyed trying on our grandmother’s jewelry. Something common to young girls.
      I’ve had conversations like that with my kids, hoping they will show compassion and kindness to people despite what they see on the outside.

  23. Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    When we were helping my mom downsize after forty years and move to a smaller home, we encouraged her to give away some of her personal treasures to loved ones as gifts. She is on a fixed income, and we really didn’t want her buying us stuff. She gave my sister the first and last gifts my father had ever given her–both costume jewelry necklaces. She gave me the necklace she’d worn in her wedding, one my sister and I had both worn as our “something borrowed.”

    I have dear friends who are pastor’s wives, and my heart aches for the way in they are often scrutinized and judged. Living a faithful life is hard enough without others waiting (hoping?) to catch you in a misstep. We really need to do a better job of building up those of you who minister alongside your husbands.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’ve come to the realization as the years go by in ministry that I will stand before an audience of one and if I can do that without regret then I’ll be fulfilled in this life. I think the judgment that comes alongside of ministry is why so many of us find it hard to be in community. Why we are selective about who we spend time with. It’s a challenge.

  24. simplystriving

    Whether your daughter is that intuitive or is that sensitive to His leading makes no difference. Oh what God can do through her! This story touched me so… (I, too, have a drawer full of Grandma’s “jewels”)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know Nikki, I can’t wait to see how He uses her. She’s so awesome, even if I am biased.

  25. nacoleat6inthesticks

    Shelly, love it as always–how you take a simple prompt and write your heart–you don’t just say it straight out–you paint a picture–make me feel like I’m there. Instead of simply feeling the emotion of your words, I’m traveling, moving through the room with you, eyeing those beautiful jewels, clamping that mouth shut that cut you. Oh, this convicts me–your words–when you love people who are like you–you aren’t loving your neighbor as yourself. Yes. Thank you. Blessings and love.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Your comment blesses me Nacole, because its what I’m hoping to do when I write a story. Show you, not tell you. I pray that people come to their own conclusions by the leading of the Holy Spirit through the power of story. Your saying that, makes me thankful.

  26. Brandee Shafer

    What a great reminder not to judge: that things aren’t always as they appear.

  27. kim

    I also remember the drawer of shiny, flashy baubles…and the carefully boxed jewelry that my grandmothers would place on my fingers and promise to me, one day, when the rings would fit tight about my fingers.

    This is a beautiful rendering…thank you for sharing.

  28. ljbmom

    Oh, Shelly, what a lovely necklace. Knowing the story behind makes it even more so. I’ve been memorizing James this year, so this whole post just rests deep in my heart. Thank you, sweet friend.

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