The Faithful Life of Mrs. Victoria
So when it does happen, we get thrown for a loop.
A few weeks ago, I was walking out of the sanctuary of our church down the hallway. I was in a hurry to get something done (can’t even remember what it was now, but it seemed important at the time) when I noticed Mrs. Victoria and her son James walking out the front door.
I almost passed by without saying anything, telling myself that I’d see them again next week. But for some reason, I found myself slowing to say, “Bye Mrs. Victoria!” I heard her loving reply, “Bye, sweetheart!” In that moment, I felt a tiny nudge like I should go and give her a hug. But I didn’t. Thinking to myself that I’d already done what was sufficient and should get back to my agenda, I kept moving down the hallway towards whatever my oh-so-important destination was.
I didn’t realize that was the last time I would ever see Mrs. Victoria.
The day my family was rejoicing in celebration of my mom’s graduation from nursing school, a dream she’s held from childhood (the fulfillment of which is a true testament of God’s miraculous power), we received word that Mrs. Victoria had passed away early in the morning.
I couldn’t even process the reality of it. It seemed unreal, like I was walking through a dream but would wake up to the real world soon. Alas, it was all too true.
Mrs. Victoria was in her 80s, but you would never know it to look at her. She appeared to be in her 60s, tall and disease-free, except for the bone-deep weariness she struggled through from a long life of facing many hardships.
I guess the Lord decided she’d fought long and hard enough, and it was time for this faithful soldier of Christ to come on home.
I’m happy she’s home with Jesus, really I am. But I sure do wish I’d taken that moment when I had the chance to give her a hug.
This past Sunday, our Pastor took some time to share with us Mrs. Victoria’s story – tying together the bits and pieces I’d heard along the way but never in one coherent narrative. It was then I learned that there was even more behind this beautiful woman of faith than I’d known when she was still alive.
[pullquote width="300" float="right"]Behind the strong woman with kind words, beautiful black skin, and conversation constantly sprinkled with praise, was a soldier.[/pullquote]
I learned that behind the strong woman with kind words, beautiful black skin, and conversation constantly sprinkled with praise, was a soldier.
Mrs. Victoria spent years as a soldier in the military when she was young. During those years of faithful service to our country, she walked away from the relationship she had with the Lord when she was a girl.
After she retired from active service, she began pursuing God again. Reconnecting with her family, who’d become heavily involved in a particular church out west, she moved back to be with them and got involved with the church herself.
But, what seemed like a loving church family at first began turning slowly into a godless cult. The shifts were subtle and took place over a few years. Those who were heavily invested were so blinded to it that they didn’t even perceive the lies they were being fed. Except Mrs. Victoria.
During one fateful service, the leader of the church began finally making overt rejections of the truth of the Gospel, casting down the Bible he had preached from for years, telling the congregation that it was a bunch of lies and that he himself was in fact the savior, their god. He asked if anyone thought differently. No one among the throng of hundreds (for it was a large church) said anything.
And then, one woman stood up and said that she didn’t believe him.
He was not God. He stared at her, then told her that if she really meant that, she should come up to the stage in front of those hundreds of people (among them her own flesh-and-blood family) and tell him to his face.
In that moment, she knew life was about to change. Fear gripped her with the temptation to sink back into her seat and renege her words so that she wouldn’t be singled out for persecution. But she knew in that moment that if she listened to temptation, she would never be able to face God in heaven.
[pullquote width="300" float="left"]She was kept under lock and key, all because she stood for Jesus and refused to accept a lie.[/pullquote]
So, with fear and trembling, limbs shaking and breath quivering, she stepped bravely out of the aisle and up to him, and in front of hundreds of people, reaffirmed that he was not God and that she would stand for the truth of the Gospel. No one joined her.
The result was persecution. She was taking to an isolated room, beaten, and tortured. She was kept under lock and key, all because she stood for Jesus and refused to accept a lie.
A long time later, God made a way for her to escape her captors.
The life she led since was a quiet one. Her name and story have not been plastered all over the news for people to see and read about. Only those who knew her in person have had the chance to learn the incredible story she lived. Her legacy is not found in words left behind, but in an example lived out.
I knew her for the last year that she had become part of our church family. But in that short time, I could see her resiliency because she chose to forgive those who hurt her. She was honest about hard times and her struggles, but she usually found a way to put a positive, redemptive spin on it.
She praised the Lord at all times. Her eyes lit up in sparkles when someone made her laugh. She was steadfast, faithful, and true. She worshipped unabashedly. I will always remember her freedom in prayer and singing, peppered with a continual heart-rhythm of, “Thank You, Jesus, thank You, Jesus, praise You, Lord.”
[pullquote width="300" float="left"]She fought the fight, she ran the race, she is one of the overcomers to whom He gives the crown of life.[/pullquote]
As we mourn the loss of Maya Angelou, a woman who in her own right was a light to the world and reached many, I want to take the time to also honor the legacy of a quieter, but no less meaningful, life left by Mrs. Victoria. She fought the fight, she ran the race, she is one of the overcomers to whom He gives the crown of life. She lived her name – Victory in Christ.
May we also seek the Lord with such fervency that our lives become living testaments of His power to help weak and broken sinners step bravely out and shine for Him.
May we live with intention to forge a legacy each day that while we are here and when we are gone points to Jesus.
May we listen to the small nudges and take the opportunities with people while we have them, never discounting those moments because they seem small and insignificant.
Because we never know when it may be our last time to love someone.
Image via Pinterest and Fruitage of the Spirit.