Love Jesus~~~Follow Jesus~~~Serve Jesus — My pastor spoke those words in his sermon on Sunday. I sat up a little straighter. I know he was admonishing all of us, but my mind immediately went to the woman I call my spiritual mother, Jeanette Gerhart. Those three phrases describe her perfectly. She passed away last week. From the moment I heard, thoughts of her and memories from the past thirty-five-plus years have filled my mind.
She may be most remembered for being the matriarch of an amazing family. She unconditionally loved her six children and guided them through life with her Bible, and her door, always open. And she did not hide her joy in the multitude of grandchildren that filled her life, home, and pool. But I will remember her for her love of Jesus.
She often quoted 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” That was her desire, to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified. She assiduously studied the Scripture and earnestly prayed. She stood in the gap for so many, praying God would save, encourage, build up, heal, convict, or turn hearts. She loved Jesus and desired to follow hard after him and serve him with her whole heart.
When she and her husband, Rich, built their home in the woods, they dedicated it to the Lord’s work. They hoped to share Jesus with young people and help young Christians grow in him. And they did that. Hundreds of young people learned about Jesus within their walls. I went to their home every week for Bible study starting when I was seventeen, quite a while ago; we won’t say just how long ago. Even when the group didn’t officially meet there anymore, I always went back to Jeanette for spiritual counsel, and I know I wasn’t alone.
Sometimes I just stopped by to chat with her. Other times I ran to her, fleeing to the one who would direct me to Jesus and His Word. She always welcomed me with a dazzling smile, warm hug, and a glass of delicious “Gerhart” iced tea. I still don’t know the secret to the tea. She cried with me, laughed with me, and prayed with me. No matter the reason I went to her, before I left, she opened her Bible and told me what she was learning. I always left her home glad I went.
Before “living intentionally” and “making disciples” were buzzword phrases in the Church, they were the lifeblood of Rich and Jeanette Gerhart. They welcomed all of us into their home and their lives, and they poured love and wisdom into our lives. They were always there for any need: a shoulder to cry on, explaining a Scripture passage, or just to cool off in the pool. I am challenged to be that person for the young people in my life, to be that person who loves Jesus, follows Jesus, and serves Jesus. I might need to get a pool.