The Man who was a Gift

I had been a part of a church and needed to leave over a significant theological issue. The next Sunday, I walked into a new church, a little beat up and sad, missing the church family I had left behind. As I walked through the doors of that church, I ran into my boss’s father-in-law, a man I only knew by sight. Steve’s face lit up to see me, and he quickly asked me to sit with him and his wife Judy. Those perceptive blue eyes seemed to read every bruise on my soul. They invited me to their home that day, an offer that was repeated on Sunday evenings, holidays, breakfast at the Egg Plantation, and lunch at the cafeteria–for two decades.

Last Friday, March 17, Steve Severance took his last breath here and entered glory, joining the Savior he had served so well for so many years. It seemed sudden to all who knew him, but the Lord had numbered his days and had deemed them sufficient to bring glory to the name of Jesus. He was a gift to all who knew him.

Steve “retired” in 2002 after a full career in marketing. He then served as a pastor, counselor, and encourager-in-chief for the last 20 years. My memories of days with Steve and Judy are some of the sweetest of my life, and here are a few things about Steve that became apparent as I watched him live:

Steve wasn’t perfect. I want to start here, because what comes next might make it seem like I thought he was. But Steve was a sinner, saved by grace, and undergoing the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God. He was quick to admit his faults, and quick to ask for forgiveness.

Steve loved Jesus. He didn’t always, and he would often reference how the Lord saved him as an adult. He would then give his head a tiny shake, look you in the eye and say, “Isn’t God good?!” When Steve said it, there was never any doubt! All the time.

Steve loved the church. Steve could have spent his retirement gathering sea shells, but he chose to spend it loving the church week in and week out. He counseled, cared for new members, and mentored young pastors, encouraging everyone who crossed his path.

Steve loved Judy and their family. There was never any doubt that Steve and Judy were a gift from God to each other, a phenomenal complement of service, function, challenge, wit, and realism. I loved hearing Steve talk about how proud he was of all his kids and his grandkids. The Sevs showed so well how to care for family, even when divided by many miles. Their creativity and intentionality were inspiring.

Steve loved to learn. He was always reading a biography or a new counseling text, attending a conference, or asking questions about someone’s work. Steve and Judy frequently studied Scripture together, memorizing large portions which flowed out easily as they engaged with others. The last couple of years, he spent time learning how to tend his family’s fruit trees and garden. What a joy it was just a couple of months ago to walk around the trees with him and hear about the process.

Steve was frugal and generous. Who can forget his old docksiders? or his Honda? I think they both had 300,000 miles and were still running. On his 70th birthday, his friends got together and surprised him with a new car, embarrassing him royally to our delight! Steve and Judy gave of themselves and their resources unsparingly. They especially love supporting missions. More than once, Steve and Judy traveled to visit their missionary friends, caring for the kids so that the couples could get away over a weekend.

Steve was hospitable. Just about everyone I know has been to the Sev’s house at one time or another. Who can forget the times of more people showing up than Judy expected (which was about every time) because Steve found a few more people who needed to be there. Sometimes it was small groups for dinners, other times, it was people who needed a place to stay. Steve and Judy opened their doors to college students, missionaries, church folk and counselees. They demonstrated the open invitation extended by our God.

Steve had favorite people–specifically, everyone he met. When you were talking to him, he had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world. He would focus, left hand tucked under his right elbow, right hand on his left shoulder, leaning in, and really listening.

Steve prayed. Steve always asked, “How can I pray for you?,” took note, and then prayed right there. No time with him was completed without going to our Father together. The last time we met, he asked, and I told him about working on writing a book. And somehow, as Steve prayed that day, I had the sure hope that it would come to fruition. When the church prayed together, he was the first to jump into the silence, leading the way as he did so often.

Steve was my elder and pastor long after we both were serving in other churches, and it was obvious he loved so well because of Jesus. I am not sure that I ever heard him preach a sermon behind a pulpit. But his life was a sermon, a signpost to Jesus.

I drove out to see Steve and Judy just before Christmas. They only had an hour free between sessions with counselees, but I knew the three hours in a car was worth it. We spoke of aging, caring for family, and ministry, and before we went to pick pomegranates and oranges for me to take home, Steve recommended this book:

He did. All Glory be to Christ.

One comment

  1. What a fantastic article Lisa. Thanks so much for writing and sharing. One can only hope to live a life as effective as his for the glory of God.


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