(First in a series of three.)
This morning (May 23, 2023) Mary Lee and I returned to the United States after three months in Taiwan. Before departure, we heard Tim Keller died. A few hours later, we heard Fr. Bill Mouser died. Upon arrival in the States, we heard Sharon Dykstra died. While Mary Lee and I were returning to our earthly home, these three souls were called by God to their eternal home. (This post is being published later, on June 23, 2023.)
That these brothers and sister in Christ died within a day or two of each other is instructive. Wanting to explain it while knowing readers don’t know two of these souls, let me say a bit about Sharon Dykstra and Bill Mouser. This post, I will introduce Mrs. Chuck (Sharon) Dykstra. Like Deborah, Sharon was a true mother in Israel.
Sharon Dykstra was the wife of Elder Chuck Dykstra, whom I was privileged to serve alongside on my first church’s session. (“Session” is what presbyterians call the governance board comprised of the congregation’s pastors and elders.) The parish was up in rural Wisconsin, and those familiar with the blog posts on Warhorn Media may remember several posts telling the story of Chuck the Barber. But prior to now, I’ve not written about Chuck’s wife, Sharon.
Sharon was exuberant in her love for Jesus, and therefore her witness to the Gospel. It would take a lengthy piece to open these things up in a way that would properly praise God for all His work in and through Sharon. Maybe I’ll say more about her in the developing Warhorn series, “The Kindness of the Lord,” but for this post, what’s important is Sharon’s work opposing that abject horror and genocide we liltingly refer to as “abortion.”
Loving Jesus, Sharon loved life. Trained as a nurse, she hated the massive slaughter of our Lord’s little ones safely nestled in their mother’s womb.
Still, Sharon was no prophet. She had no aspirations in that direction, nor was speaking negatively her forte. She wasn’t a moralist, either. As her pastor, it seemed to me she was incapable of thinking of herself more highly than she ought to think. Never condescending, she spoke of the sins and failures of others only rarely, when it was necessary. In full possession of that virtue so rare in our world today which used to be called “feminine modesty,” when something evil and shameful was spoken of in her presence, it was her habit to look down and away. I attributed it to her not wanting to strengthen wickedness by acknowledging its existence.
Among some I’ve known, these things are sinful expressions of their commitment to live in self-deception. Such souls think the victorious Christian life is merely a matter of facing every situation while reciting triumphalists’ mantra, “Just keep on smiling.”
The insincerity of this common life-posture of Christians becomes clear when serious pain and suffering hit. Christian triumphalists refuse to acknowledge tragedy and pain. They find the soul-wrenching work of grieving over sin and its fruits intolerable, and so those around him who try to grieve find no commonality with them. Crying with those who cry, mutual sympathy and comfort, are stiff-armed by these superior spiritual beings.
Hearing of his suicide, it isn’t difficult to imagine such Christians saying to those learning the news at the same time as they do, “Isn’t it good to know Judas’s suffering is finally over? He’s in a better place now.”
Speaking of pastoral ministry among such triumphalist Christians, we find their buffed and shiny veneer vanishes when the wickedness and destruction of rebellion is brought to their attention in our pastoral care, teaching, or preaching. Right then, their true nature appears. Instantly they become hostile, trying to shove any negative confession far from them.
Every pastor who fears God has been advised by an elder not to preach on sin because “people have hard lives and they just need to be encouraged.” Similarly, when some predator or victim of child sexual abuse, incest, adultery, or depression within the flock is brought to the attention of the session for prayer and the combined wisdom of the elders, every pastor has listened to that elder perched high in his victorious Christian aerie declare, “Look, why do we have to know about all this? Can’t you pastors just handle it?”
Truth is, when I first met and spent some time with Chuck and Sharon, I thought Sharon might be such a woman. She was sweet, blonde, beautiful, and everyone will freely admit that, every now and then, she did gush. Plus, her husband, Chuck, was genial and the best hunter, fisherman, and skeet-shooter for miles around. Both were handsome and tall, and both very positive, so at first I thought of them as our middle-aged homecoming king and queen.
Then I went and worked next to Sharon at successive national general assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (USA) where the depths of her Christian love and witness were on full display for a week—morning, afternoon, evening, and night. No one privileged to do this work beside Sharon ever mistook her for an insecure Christian woman who thought her calling was to smile and declare victory while pattering on trivially about God’s “sovereignty” and “providence.”
The work we shared at those general assemblies couldn’t fail to expose the strength or weakness of men’s faith, and thus the condition of their souls. Sharon was stellar.
The way to describe working at Presbyterian Church (USA) general assemblies in the eighties is to say that men and (mostly) women paid their way to join together with our Presbyterians Pro-Life team that was present to witness to God’s order of creation: that sodomy and lesbianism were violations of God’s Creation Order, and that abortion and infanticide and euthanasia were the shedding of blood of men, each of whom was made in the image and likeness of God. Our denomination was promoting violations of the sixth and seventh commandments of God’s Moral Law, and PPL’s team was present to witness against these bloodsheds and immoralities.
We designated a couple days prior to the assembly to pull the team together and cast the vision for our work, and without fail, it was only the godly who showed up. The women among them spent the first days of the assembly crying. They were devastated by the godlessness of denominational leaders, as well as the pastors and elders who were the commissioners to the assembly. All of them put on display hearts that were granite-hard. Their godlessness was hard to comprehend.
When Scripture concerning the blessing of life was quoted to one pastor, his response was “The Bible is bullshit.” This was no one-off, but representative of what the PPL team dealt with year after year. Such wickedness in high places broke the hearts of the godly, and some never returned to work with us at succeeding assemblies. But some stuck around, and Sharon Dykstra was one of them.
It broke her heart too, but her faith and love were tough as nails. She was beautiful, She was kind. She was compassionate. She was humble. She was cheerful, even. But she never thought of quitting because she could hear and see and feel compassion for the little ones being murdered, so she too said, “I believe, and therefore I speak.”
She spoke gently, but fearlessly. She spoke kindly, but firmly. She spoke humbly, but boldly—always standing on the authority of Scripture.
This is my account of one mother in Israel, and no one reading this will wonder at my public confession that I was strengthened in my work and ministry by Sharon Dykstra.
Is it too much to ask that pastors in other conservative reformed and presbyterian denominations will be as faithful as this dear woman? Must she suffer male intimidation and its attendant discouragement while celebrity preachers receive their accolades in response to their sophisticated trimming of God’s truth? Is there any legitimate reason why male church officers should depend upon women from rural communities married to the town barber to call other godless church officers to repentance?
Even if we don’t have any love for Jesus that motivates us to protect our Lord’s little ones from murder, can we not take compassion on women like Sharon who—bless their precious hearts—can’t help but testify against the slaughter of the innocents while pastors like the Presbyterian Church in America’s Tim Keller, Christianity Today’s John Huffman, and Billy Graham’s brother-in-law Clayton Bell, are silent?
When our church and I transferred from the Presbyterian Church (USA) into the Presbyterian Church in America a decade after first working next to Sharon Dykstra at general assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I was steeled to defend this godly mother in Israel against famous rich men who defended their silence in the face of the terrible sins of abortion and sodomy.
Under Tim Keller’s watch, these great evils have now overrun our nation.
While Tim climbed from glory to glory, Sharon suffered. She and Chuck lost their daughter, Kim, whose death left bereft her husband and young children. She and Chuck also loved and tenderly cared for their handicapped granddaughter, Leah.
Put me on the side of those mourning the loss of our mother in Israel, Sharon Dkystra.
(First in a series of three.)