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Mr. Steady (Priest - Jesus)

February 14, 2024

by Jeff Vowell

Since I am new to these pages, it behooves me to introduce myself. My name is Jeff Vowell. Debi and Mike often refer to me as Jeffro, a nickname from 50 years ago. Debi and I grew up together when she was still Debi Smith. In fact, my father was one of her high school teachers. I have a very funny story about Debi and my father’s “board of education,” but that’s a tale for another time!

In our senior year of high school, Debi invited me to a shindig at Southside Baptist Church that proved to be my undoing as a phony-baloney, goody-two-shoes, so-called “Christian” who grew up in the Baptist church. I reluctantly agreed to come, and when I did, I ended up hearing Mike preach a message that cut through me like a knife. For the first time, I saw that my goodness, my church membership, my being from a good family didn’t amount to a hill of beans in God’s economy. His standard was the absolute sinless perfection of his only Son, Jesus Christ, and what he had accomplished FOR me on the cross. That night, for the first time in my life, I quit trusting in the wrong thing and started trusting in the only ONE who could get me to heaven and present me acceptable before God the Father. That night, with real understanding I called upon the Lord to save me and be MY Savior and my only hope, and he did just that.

That started a huge chain reaction. First the direction of my music began to change. Before I got saved, I had wanted to get into rock music, but now that desire was gone. I ended up joining the church where Mike was pastor and soon became immersed in intensive Bible study. As I grew in the Lord, I got involved with the Christian music ministry called The Scarlet Thread.

I first met my wife when The Scarlet Thread was set up at the Mid-South Fair in Memphis, Tennessee. We had a big, old, converted U.S. Mail van that had a stage extending off the side from which we would perform and Mike would preach. I was doing some equipment prep on the edge of the stage, when suddenly the cutest little gal came sauntering by with the prettiest blue eyes I had ever seen!

“Well, hello there!” I said. The conversation didn’t last very long. As it turned out, Linda (the beauty’s name) was there with her mom, my future mother-in-law, Melba Morris, who would later become my spiritual mother and mentor. They were there with the local children’s ministry, Child Evangelism Fellowship. Linda and her family also attended Southside Baptist, so it was pretty easy to follow-up. It was several years (11 to be exact) before we married but true love prevailed!

The Enlightening

I began to learn some very valuable spiritual lessons when I got married. Here’s one of the first, one that applies to ALL men.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

(1 Peter 3:7)

Here’s the thing that God showed me from this verse: when I got married, there were some things (a LOT of things actually) that I did not KNOW about my wife, about marriage, about emotions, about relationships in general, etc. In other words, AS A MAN, there are some things that I need to KNOW, that I need to learn, that I need to gain knowledge of and acquire wisdom in. It is a problem that most men fail to recognize, and if they DO recognize it and seek God for help (If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5), God will provide. And, for me, he certainly did.

Now, it wasn’t instantaneous, which, of course, is true of all relationships. Growth in a marriage takes time, and some of that growth can even be painful. We struggled through learning to communicate with one another.

I am thankful to God that my dear wife did not see my hesitancy in communicating as a refusal to communicate, but rather a longing to communicate that simply needed to be nurtured. In the end, her Steady Man became her CALM in the storm (she often referred to me that way, the one who calmed her down). But in the beginning? Oh boy . . . Katie bar the door! I may have been a Steady Man, but Linda was NOT my steady counterpart. No sir-ree! If she had been a man, she would have definitely been a Command Man through and through! A regular General Pattonette! Now don’t get me wrong; she was a sweetheart in many ways. Of course, I was not a perfect angel either.

I remember one time in Wal-mart balking at the idea of buying a couple of fish for the aquarium . . . a couple of measly fish! Oh, you don’t think she hit the roof over that? This Steady Man had to learn to bend a little on the finances. Two fish . . . c’mon, man. And then there was the time I tried consolidating her February 13th birthday and Valentine’s Day. I needed my “Get Out of Jail Free” card again! And I could be such a procrastinator too. I had purchased a huge bunch of timbers for the yard to go around our above-ground pool but left them languishing in the backyard. I never heard the end of it! Now, I know she probably shouldn’t have given me grief over it (the generalissimo in her had taken over), but I had definitely fallen down on the job. Did I finally do the job? Of course, but I learned that it is much to my advantage to do the task sooner rather than LATER. Believe it or not, it is still something this Steady Man struggles with.

I Could Shine

I did have my good points when I could shine. If there was something she knew she couldn’t handle or was just too tired or emotionally drained to deal with, she would look to me as her bulwark, her “man for all seasons.” That time came soon and with a greater vengeance than either of us could have expected.

Linda was a wonderful wife and mother, a gifted high school teacher and talented pianist. But all that would come crashing down around her when a debilitating illness slowly robbed her of those abilities. She was only 43 years old when she had to quit teaching and was officially declared disabled. She chafed against that, and I tried to keep her calm. Soon her health began to affect her piano playing and even her ability to teach her Sunday school class. Her world began closing in around her. I knew more than ever that she needed me to be her rock in the midst of a terrible physical storm! I witnessed my wife go through one of the most severe trials of a person’s will and faith that anyone would ever be called upon to go through. As a Steady Man, it was easier for me to do all I could to encourage and minister to my wife’s needs. God knew she would need me, and I am thankful I was there for her.

In the spring of 2013, I retired early from my job with FedEx so I could be with her 24/7. Our remaining ten years together were bittersweet, fraught with medical upheaval and uncertainty. But underneath it all was still the calm assurance of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” even though it was a hard pill to swallow. Linda, with tears in her eyes, would often look over to me and say while in the midst of great pain, “You keep me so calm!” And I would reach over and take her hand and tell her how much I loved her. Or, on many occasions, I would simply kneel in front of her chair and reach my arms around her and hold her, reassuring her of my love, telling her it would all be okay, while her tears wet the back of my neck.

Her disease took its toll, and my priestly role as Steady Man was coming to an end. My heavenly Father was calling my sweet darling home.

Linny and I had been married just shy of 42 years when God took her home. It had been a long battle for both of us. When death finally came for Linny, it came as a blessed relief and release. Her struggle was finally at an end. No more tears, no more pain, no more days of abject discouragement and depression. She was now at peace, finally, truly home. We do not sorrow as those that have no hope. I know I will see her again. Until then, I want to share with you what she taught me.

What Linny Taught Me

My childhood was good and full of many wonderful memories, but we were never a very emotional family. We were never given to shows of great affection—hugging or saying, “I love you.” That ALL changed when I got married! Again, it took some time, but slowly, in measured steps, she began to draw me out of my shell and reveal the side of me that had always been there. Now, I didn’t become some overwrought, emotional freak show; rather, I just learned to mete out my emotions with a bit more regularity than I might have otherwise considered previously prudent. In other words, I learned to be the best I could be emotionally, which meant from a balanced, whole perspective.

In the end, I like how Debi recapped it in her book Created to Be His Help Meet. In Chapter 8, in finalizing her talk on the Steady Man, she says the following:

“A man who is created steady brings peace and safety to a woman’s soul. Your husband’s gentleness is not a weakness, it is his strength. Your husband’s hesitation is not indecision, it is cautious wisdom. Your husband’s lack of deep spiritual conversation is not a lack of caring, it is simply the cap on a mountain of intense emotions.”

One thing that developed in my relationship with my wife (as a Steady Man) was a more expressive side of my emotional being. I knew it was always there and it often came out in the music I wrote.

One poem in particular that I wrote for my wife perfectly illustrates this point while underscoring the whole aspect of the Steady Man’s seemingly hidden emotional qualities. It is unabashedly a love poem:

Ode to Linda
Roses are red—a passionate hue,
Reminding me of my passion for you.
Though not as apparent as feelings should be,
That passion exists, nonetheless, in me.
It ebbs and it flows, yet still it resides—
A stream underground, whose strength the earth hides.
Though fountain above, an ocean beneath
Supplies that small fountain an endless bequeath
Of water so pure, brought forth so to gladden
The heart of my lady, ne’ermore to be saddened.

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