What lessons have I learned from shepherding a 106 year old widow in my church?

 I have had the honor of knowing an amazing lady in my church.  Tillie Roberts, affectionately known to most of us as “Ms. Tillie,” is 106 years old and is doing well despite some recent health problems.  She was in the hospital this past week for fatigue issues and has been moved to a nursing home this week.  In caring for her this past week, I have been reminded of what a gem of a lady she is and what the Lord has graciously taught me through the years as her young pastor.  Here are a few thoughts… 

“Having walked with the Lord longer than I’ve been alive” principle.  This is a good general rule for us as young pastors to consider.  If there is someone in our church that has been walking with the Lord long before we were born, they will probably have a thing or two to teach us.  It may not be about the atonement, the active and passive obedience of Christ, or a complex breakdown of eschatology. 

There is, however, much they can teach us about marriage, child-rearing, walking with the Lord through suffering, and many other insights a long life brings, so pay attention when they speak.  Ask them about their life, as I regularly do with Ms. Tillie.  You might be surprised what you will learn.   

The perspective of history.  I love history and love learning it from this woman.  I remember lunch at Cracker Barrel with Ms. Tillie a few years ago where she talked me through the different antique farming tools hanging on the walls.  I was amazed not only in her knowledge of these things, but how she had remembered so well working with these tools while growing up on a farm.  When you talk with someone who remembers when there were not any cars, really lived through the great depression, and watched loved ones leave for war assuming they would not come back…a helpful perspective on our Internet, I-Pad, GPS, world is powerfully given. 

The usefulness of a sharp mind.  Even now at 106 years old, she has a stunningly sharp mind.  Less than 5 years ago, she could not only walk up to my children and call them by name, but knew each of their birthdays and how old they were (which meant the world to them).  Ms. Tillie could not do a lot physically in recent years, but she used her mind to the fullest, even into these much later years.  She still reads, studies her Bible, thinks deeply about life issues, and is an inspiration to young and old to do the same.

Contentment in Christ.  This woman’s life testifies of the Christian calling that “with food and covering we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).  She was widowed almost 40 years ago, yet never remarried.  She bought a new car in 1970 and when she stopped driving it 3 years ago it had only 25,000 miles on it.  She was unable to have children of her own, so she made it a point to adopt and invest in every new child (including mine) that has come into the church the last 10 years.  It is one thing for us to say we are content in Christ, yet race around seeking things in life that portrays the opposite.  This woman is truly satisfied in Christ and has powerfully reflected that satisfaction in the joy she has had in her simple life.

This woman has truly been a gift to know and shepherd.  If you have these kinds of elderly folks in your church, you are a blessed pastor.  If you do not, I am sad for you.  If you have led your church in such a way that elderly folks do not feel welcome or that you do not want them…well, I am concerned for you (that may need to be a separate future post…).

 

Posted in Caring for Widows, Oversight of Souls
9 comments on “What lessons have I learned from shepherding a 106 year old widow in my church?
  1. Amen. Our oldest member is 99. She is wise.

  2. marc mullins says:

    I could not agree more. I have the privilege of teaching our Sr. Adult Men on most Sundays, which at first was awkward until we took some time to discuss our time spent in the military, which was all of us but one who had polio. I certainly learn from them as much or more than I teach them. I praise God for their wisdom and their willingness to obey God in sharing it.

  3. What an amazing topic. As young pastors we would really be in better shape if we would only spend MORE time with this experienced filled, believers! The oldest member our Church here in Monterrey, Mexico had was a 114 year old brother! He was born in 1888! It was exciting talking with him!

  4. Kat says:

    How lovely! What a great life… My Daddy – who passed away last year – was very like Miss Tillie. He had a gentle, loving spirit and was truly interested in EVERYONE. He had a servant’s heart, and I really miss him. I am so blessed an honored by the godly heritage he left, and am looking forward to seeing him again when we rejoice before the Throne.

    I hope that, perhaps, one day *I* could be a “Miss Tillie” for someone. In the meantime, this also makes me realize that even though I’m almost 50, there is still so much to learn out there, and that our older saints are a treasure trove of experience and wisdom!

  5. What an amazing testimony her life is. I hope to have such a testimony if I reach that age. Thanks for sharing.This gives me a greater desire to be around the older saints in my church.

  6. Jim Swindle says:

    I’ve known and been blessed by several very old saints over the years. One became a Christian when about 80. At 90, she’d participate in a church work day by inviting everyone to her tiny house for lunch that she prepared. On the other hand, a few years ago my wife and I left a church, largely because people as old as us (we were in our 50’s) didn’t seem to be welcome any longer. Now we’re blessed to be in a healthier church where there are people of nearly every age, though we don’t have any who’ve reached 100.

  7. Wonderful post! You’re last paragraph was a real gut punch for me. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Tears. Reminds me of my late grandmother Mabel West. Praise God for raising up such women!

  9. heather joy says:

    Great post here. I really enjoyed reading it.

5 Pings/Trackbacks for "What lessons have I learned from shepherding a 106 year old widow in my church?"
  1. […] Don’t waste your Cancer: An Interview with Matt Chandler (from Ligonier Ministries) […]

  2. […] I buried our beloved 106 year old widow, Ms. Tillie Roberts.  There are many lessons I learned from shepherding this woman for the last 8 years, but I was reminded of another while walking through all the funeral details this weekend.  That […]

  3. […] Shepherding How Do You Care For A 90 Year Old Man About To Become A Widower – Brian Croft What Lessons Have I Learned From Shepherding a 106 Year Old Widow In My Church – Brian […]

  4. […] years ago, I buried our beloved 106 year old widow, Ms. Tillie Roberts.  There are many lessons I learned from shepherding this woman for 8 years, but I was reminded of another when I conducted the funeral that still sticks with me.  That is, […]

  5. […] Shepherding How Do You Care For A 90 Year Old Man About To Become A Widower – Brian Croft What Lessons Have I Learned From Shepherding a 106 Year Old Widow In My Church – Brian […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Donate

Help send free Practical Shepherding resources to pastors around the world.

Categories
Facebook
Subscribe

Email:

RSS Feeds:

Advertisements