Grace for the Pressure Cooker

MERLYNN%202014%20copy%20size%2090AI’m a preacher’s kid. Honestly, it’s even worse than that. I’m an evangelist’s kid. I have a lot of funny-sad stories of things that people thought that meant and what they thought that made me. Inside our family, though, there was love and acceptance and general cheering for one another. My brothers and I were blessed beyond measure to be enfolded in this household of faith. One of the major desires of our parents was that we kids get a really fine education. It mattered. As the first one out of the nest, I definitely blew it. I found school easy and fun, but falling in love even easier and even more fun. I married halfway through college. My younger brothers sailed past me — off to BAs, MAs and a PhD.   When my husband finished all the school he ever wanted, I decided to surprise my dad and finish my BA. So off I went to the closest college to do just that. It took four years of night school to do the last two years. Ah, but then I got the bug. With two young sons and a husband, I climbed that education ladder to my own MA and PhD.

I became a psychologist; not a clinician but a researcher. I had done my doctoral work at Stanford and, for reasons that are grist for a different blog, I needed to stay in the Bay Area. I taught at Stanford throughout my graduate years and also consulted for school districts throughout the Bay Area. I eventually landed across the campus at the Medical School, and there I stayed for the rest of my career. I directed an international program for medical faculty in Medical Decision Analysis – a field that was brand new in medicine at that time. Clinical faculty came to our program to learn this medical curriculum as well as how to teach it.   When they returned to their own medical schools, they were prepared to train their own faculty.   I also did my own research in valuing health states to provide a quality adjustment for length of life. These values were then used in decision modeling, primarily for policy purposes. Medical conferences, writing, data analysis, teaching, presenting papers – I lived the full academic life. It often felt like a pressure cooker. I thrived.

All this to say, that I, as a firmly grounded conservative evangelical Christian, was right in the middle of a career and a university that was not interested in or friendly to my faith. I even went to church! That alone was a huge testimony to people in the Bay Area where churches do not appear on every corner as in AZ. I went to a Conservative Baptist Church! Wow. I was unique. At church, I was pretty unique, too. Older women will know why. I taught and worked at a decidedly secular university.   Back then, we who were ambitious and career-oriented were called “uppity women.” So at work I was too conservative; at church too liberal. I was determined to find my own way to grow as a believer and find a clear outlet for my faith. Stanford is “pc” to a fault. Tolerance is a much touted virtue. Talking about personal faith was frowned upon. Christianity was “old hat.” My well educated colleagues thought they already knew all there was to know about Christianity. On the other hand, unusual religious practices and beliefs were “interesting.”

My desire was to “Let your light shine before men in such as way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NASB. This is what happened during my Stanford years. I learned to play the quieter game and was always personally respected and liked, despite my stance as a believer. I put a “new face” on Christianity for many of them, I believe. Everyone knew what I stood for and there were chances for private conversations–often when things were tough in their lives. They knew to whom they could come and be heard. I became, and have remained, a valued confidante for a number of them.

At church, I was busy through the years – teaching adult classes; serving on educational committees; attending courses in doctrine and theology, helping in Jr. Church; volunteering with the high school group – joyful service within my local body. The last decade before I retired and moved to AZ to care for my mom, I found the perfect place for my secular skills to combine with my Christian faith. I participated in a national training program in San Diego for Stephen Ministry Leaders (recall the story of Stephen, Acts 6:8-7:60). Stephen Ministry is a confidential, one-on-one lay ministry to people in the midst of the familiar crises of life—divorce, illness, grieving, job loss, infidelity, childbirth, care-giving.   I became the co-leader, supervisor and trainer for many groups of volunteer care-givers through those years. People in the church applied, were carefully interviewed and prayed for, and then those we chose were given 50 hours of training using some of the finest materials I have ever seen. There was also continuing education during our twice monthly Peer Supervision meetings. Along with teaching others, I had my own care receivers through those years. We had an amazing impact on the lives of hurting people both inside and outside our congregation. It felt satisfying to be able to witness of my own faith with freedom during these encounters. I will forever be grateful to God for this experience and His answer to my prayer for a way to truly serve.

Think of your own lives. Are you working or volunteering in a place where your faith is not valued or even allowed to be mentioned? In these cases you may choose a quieter way as I did.

  • Build a solid reputation as a hard and effective worker, as the early Christians were advised (With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men. Ephesians 6:7 NASB)
  • Live as we are taught in God’s Word.
  • Speak of your faith when asked.
  • Support the fellow believers you will undoubtedly find.
  • Witness when you are one-on-one and/or at non-work events with your colleagues.
  • Pray for those God lays on your heart. He will give opportunity.
  • Continue your own growth in the faith.

We used to call this Friendship Evangelism back in the day. The way we behave, the hobbies, activities, attitudes we choose will bring others to us in curiosity or admiration. Then our testimony really has an impact.

Finally, make every effort to find those places where you can be fully Christian in an open way, serving and ministering to the ones Christ has put in your path. Love from your sister and fellow servant.

LOVE, Merlynn


3 thoughts on “Grace for the Pressure Cooker

  1. What an accomplished life story, to-date, that you have, both professionally and Kingdom-wise, in daring to be different, and living to His calling for you! Thank you for sharing, as always, your well-earned insights that are so genuinely caring, and challenge us to rise up.

  2. Pingback: Get Ready for Women’s Bible Study!! | Charis Conversations

  3. As Merlynn’s son, let me affirm all she wrote about in this blog – and there is more, because she barely mentioned her huge spiritual influence in our home – in my life and the life of my brother. Thanks, Mom!! And add to her list of recommendations “Smile and laugh often! It shows an inner heart of God’s love and joy!”

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