FIRST-PERSON: Winsomeness, personified
DALLAS (BP) -- Our church had an active women's ministry and was holding our very first women's conference. I was excited because our main speaker was Marge Caldwell, famed speaker and teacher from Houston, Texas.
Marge, who died in 2006 at age 91, had a huge national following and was known for her humor and wit, but she also was known for teaching insightful and deep truths from Scripture. I was especially thrilled that she would be staying in our home, meaning that I would have some time with her alone. As one of her many admirers, I was curious about what made Marge tick and was fervently hoping I could absorb some of her stellar qualities just by being around her for a couple of days.
Our daughters were elementary school age at the time and were curious about our house guest. When I introduced them, Marge promptly sat down on our sofa and asked them to join her. They began to eagerly chat about their day, their school, friends, likes, dislikes, you name it.
I remember watching this scenario and thinking, "She's talking to them like they were real people!" After about 20 minutes they were all BFFs and even had an inside joke! Marge was the topic of family conversations for a long time after the conference.
I did learn something from Marge's visit and it wasn't just from her strong messages to our women. She was a winsome woman, whether with children, women or anyone else. She had a joy and a love for others that was contagious.
Winsome, according to the dictionary, can be defined as "generally pleasing and engaging; a childlike charm; one who causes pleasure; appealing." Let's look at those qualities a little closer:
-- "Upbeat" -- A winsome woman is positive and generally cheerful, one who looks for the best in people and situations. In my opinion, it also means a woman who doesn't take herself too seriously. She can laugh at herself.
-- "Childlike charm" -- There is a mountain of difference between "childishness" and "childlikeness." Childishness demonstrates selfishness and immaturity, but childlikeness implies innocence or simple trust. How appealing that is in a person! No sneering cynicism, sarcasm or skepticism, a winsome woman looks for and believes in the best in others. (If you have been in ministry for awhile, this can be challenging.)
-- "One who causes pleasure" -- A woman who is genuinely interested in others rather than herself is a winsome woman. I doubt now if Marge really wanted to know what was going on in the third grade at Peters Elementary, but you sure could have fooled me that day. A person who is interested in others invites honest conversations and sharing on a deeper level. A winsome woman can forget about herself.
In the context of ministry life, winsomeness takes on even more weight. As we meet people who know nothing of the saving grace of Christ, we must be winsome witnesses. As we help bear others' burdens, we must do so with winsomeness which includes a sensitivity to their pain. As we grow older, we are winsome when we encourage the younger generation, listen to them and believe in them. We are winsome when we refuse to look back at hurts but look forward to God's blessings and provision.
The Old English root of "winsome" is wynn, which means "joy." And that says it all.