Who will be influenced by my life?
Who will be influenced by your life?
Who will be influenced by those you influence?
Influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself” according to the Oxford dictionary.
Social influence takes many forms which manifest in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales and marketing. People often alter their behavior and attitude in response to what they perceive others might do or think.
“The people that God chooses, blesses and uses are not made faultless at every point…they are faithful at every point. We are to be faithful.” This was shared by one of our favorite pastors, Ronnie Stevens. I am certainly far from faultless, but I can be faithful in my every day. The freedom of being used by God as His hands and feet overwhelms me with purpose and joy.
Consider the roles you play. When I consider all of my roles I am a wife, a mother of five, a grandmother of two granddaughters, a sister, a sister-in-law, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a friend, a teacher, a neighbor, a Christ follower and a member of a church community. Thoughtful contemplation of my influence in these roles is sobering. I wonder if am doing all I can do to be a worthy example.
Looking back on those who shaped my life, let me share a few thoughts about a few people who have guided me:
Bev Curtis spent years with me when I was in my junior high and high school years. She was a single lady missionary who helped my parents. She stood in as our young people’s teacher which was sort of like a youth director. Her kindness, wise counsel and willingness to listen meant so much to me in my youth.
As a young mother, I leaned into wise mothers beside me like my mother and several women in my church community. Two stand out in my memory, Katherine Barnhart and Teddi Reynold. In God’s goodness, I have spent meaningful time with each one of these incredible women of God in the last six months. They still radiate with spiritual maturity and feminine graciousness. Katherine is direct offering pragmatic solutions to some of life’s great dilemmas. Her own mission in life was radically redirected yet she radiates God’s glorious purpose as she obediently shoulders the opportunities that He has entrusted her to steward. Thankfully, Teddi has survived her second fierce battle with cancer. Today she stands as beautiful is spirit as the first day we became friends. In the sweetest of turns, my daughter Mikayla as spent several weekends with her. Teddi lives on the way between Mikayla’s home and ours. They became deeply connected comrades quickly. Mikayla commented that it was easy to see why I loved Teddi so!! Both of these women along with my mother advised me as I nursed babies, taught my preschoolers and began to homeschool. I am forever grateful for their influence.
Some of my stand beside friends in the years of babies, littles and homeschooling kids would be Kellye Stelling, Kathy Ethridge, Teresa Pegrim and Trish Peel. These women stood strong beside me as I started and led several groups that grew our children. Not only did we work together beside each other, we cared for each other and supported each other in practical ways. With Kellye I could rely on a confidential ear with advice that was God fearing and loving. I greatly admired her love of learning, her deep compassion for others and her strength in raising her five children. Kathy was actually one of my husband’s college friends who became my friend. Like me she loved children. With great effort we started an sizable AWANA program that is still active today. We spent years taking our children and others to the most fun and educational places. Teresa proved a steady companion always ready to run ahead sorting our details while I finished the urgent work. Most endearing was the love and clever teaching that she gave my littles as she taught them. Trish Peel walked beside me with strength in some of the hardest situations with adults and our children. I only hope that my friendship was equally as supportive to her in the years where we were holding each other up at the same time.
Miss Patti was finishing her teaching career when she began to come over to my house and help me with homeschooling. I appreciated her willingness to sit with my children and work with them on individual skills. She brought some experienced ideas to challenging struggles. I appreciate her influence on my children.
Two women that greatly influenced me as Bible teachers have been Donna Gaines and Sandy Wright. Sandy led the Precepts that I attended when I was just a mother of one. Through the years we have shared meals, an overnight women’s event and prayer requests close to our hearts. Donna is one of the dearest women who is also my pastor’s wife. For nearly 17 years, we have grown at Bellevue Baptist Church in Tennessee. Sitting under her Bible teaching is just such a maturing process. Graciously, she invited me to teach in India on a two week mission trip. Since my two teenage girls were both going, Donna and I shared keeping them in our rooms. So many sweet memories of time together spiritually and personally.
So many others offered their influence in my life, but consistently my two brothers, Nathan and Titus along with my sister Daphne have changed me for the better. I am immensely grateful to have such strong siblings to do life with. Just this year, we have moved back to SC to be near our families. In tangible ways we practice generous living. Each of them have influenced me in unique ways. I am deeply grateful to be their big sister.
Of great importance are the people that I spent much of my early life with – my parents. Their influence reverberates today, years after they are gone. Early memories of my father include his encouragement for me to jump into the ocean. He swam a distance away and insisted that I jump and swim toward him. I did. I don’t ever remember not being able to swim. Early driving lessons and browsing through his pastor library brought me great joy. As my pastor growing up, he taught me the scripture in depth through inductive Bible study and practical application. My mother loved me and daily invested in me as well as my other siblings. She encouraged me to develop a relationship with Jesus. Her impact ranged from teaching how to cook, clean, keep a day planner, serve women and children, teach children, teach a Bible story and more. For more read The Value of a Mom.
Of course, the man who I have spent 36 years loving significantly continues to shape who I am. I am influenced by his humor, his magnanimous generosity, love of people – both strong loyalty toward known friends as well as strangers and his steady provision for me and our children. I appreciate his kind encouragement for me to do the things I want to do, but often need a nudge to attempt. Spending the last 35 years with Tim has been a great influence in who I am today.
Long ago, a young man, named Samuel Morgan, grew up to be the principal of Ashland School in Ashland, Mississippi. As a principal of a school he must have been impressed with the urgency to form and guide young minds. The following poem written in 1914 by Samuel Morgan was given to me by his grandson, Ed Morgan, who is in his 80’s. It was printed and framed when it was gifted to me. Imagine writing a poem, passing it to your children who passed it their children, only to have it land in the lap of a total stranger over 100 years in the future. Do you think he thought these thoughts would be influencing people in 2024? I wonder who Samuel Morgan influenced in his life of education or in his personal life?
Let’s take a moment to consider the words written my Samuel Morgan…
Bound together, as we are, by the ties of common nature of mutual dependence, every man is a foundation of influence, good or bad, conservative or destructive. His language, spirit, actions, habits, his very manners all tell…forming the taste, molding the character and shaping the course of others to the end of time.
“No man liveth to himself.” He cannot. Apparently, he may, but he really does not. He may raise walls around his possessions, call his lands by his own name and his inward thoughts may be, as the world phrases it, to take care of himself and his dependents; for he can neither limit the effort of his plans, nor forecast the inheritance of his estate.
“Gather up my influence and bury it with me” were the dying words of a young man to the weeping friends at his bedside. What a wish was this! What deep anguish of heart there must have been as the young man reflected upon his past life! A life which had not been what it should have been. Oh, the regrets that must have filled his very soul as he thought of the young men whom he had influenced for evil – influences which he felt, if possible, must be eradicated, and which let him faintly, but pleadingly, to breathe out such a dying request, “Gather up my influence and bury it with me.”
My friends, the influences of your lives, for good or bad, cannot be gathered up by your friends after your eyes are closed in the deep sleep that has no awakening. No matter how earnestly you may plead in your last moments on earth, your influence has gone out from you. You alone were responsible. You had the power to govern and to shape. Your influence cannot be withdrawn. It is impossible.
We are touching human beings on all sides. They are affected by us for good or evil, by what we say and do, even by what we think and feel. Each of us is silently saturating the atmosphere about us with the aroma of our character just as the flowers breathe their fragrance through the atmosphere.
If we are denied those extraordinary talents, which ever give their possessors such influence, we are apt to imagine that there is nothing for us to do. But this is not so. Every one, though poor and humble, has a mission to fulfill. Every hand, though small and feeble, can work out some good or ill.
What are some practical ways to respond to this life-giving idea of influence?
- Think about people that have influenced you. Call or write them and express appreciation.
- For those people that we live with daily and weekly, look intentionally for opportunities to speak words or gratitude and influence. How can you speak life into their hearts?
- Consider what might be preventing the influence we desire? Habits? Woundedness? Selfishness? Jealousy? Need for apologies? Need for forgiveness?
- Ask God for eyes to see others. Our human nature is to focus on ourselves instead of looking at others and their needs. To test yourself in this area, do you enter a room and think “What are others thinking about what I look like? Do they approve of my clothes, my car or the people that I am with today?” Or are you thinking, “Who needs a smile? Who looks lonely? What kind thing can I do for someone in this room? Who needs me to listen? Who might be having a hard day? a hard week? Who is living through a divorce? Loss of job? Financial stress? Loss of a child? Miscarriage? Infertility? A child in jail? Sexual abuse? Shaming? What can I do today in this place to be the hands and feet of Christ?”
- Invest in relationships. Review all of the roles that you play. Are you doing them well? Could you focus spending more time with these people? Do you know them well? Do you spend enough time to know what they need? What do you need to invest to influence well? As a Christ follower, I want to impact people that I know and love to follow Jesus. What is my influence? What is your influence?
When I consider all that is truly important in my life, I realize most of the things that really matter in my life are those which are done with intention. As a Christ follower, I pursue being an apprentice of Christ. My strength of influence flows out of me. What will my influence be? What am I becoming? I certainly don’t want to gather up my influence and bury it with me. My influence cannot be withdrawn. The atmosphere around me in saturated with my words and deeds. How will I influence?
For a more thorough unpacking of this idea along with personal stories, join me for a conversation with Tim on influence on this Embrace Your Everyday podcast.
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