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Karen’s Mom vs. the Big Lie

There is a lie afoot in our culture that says, "You are what you do." It roots our identities in our careers and in our accomplishment. We begin our cocktail party conversations with the question, "So, what do you do?" Karen's mom, Ruth Starook, lived a life that re…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

There is a lie afoot in our culture that says, "You are what you do." It roots our identities in our careers and in our accomplishment. We begin our cocktail party conversations with the question, "So, what do you do?"

Karen's mom, Ruth Starook, lived a life that repudiated that lie. And when she died this past week, her life showed us that there is a better way.

Sure, she had a job. She worked for Nielsen, the market research company. But that didn't define her. When we gathered around her grave site in Rising Sun, MD a few days ago, there were no Nielsen executives there. But there was her husband of 58 years, her three children, most of her ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild (that's Marston meeting her for the first time just hours before she passed in the picture).

One of her children shared how much she had prayed during her life. Another related how he knew what to look for in a wife because of the example she had set. And another focused on the way she had such a servant's heart.

Her husband, Sam, didn't have to say much about how much he loved his wife – anyone who knew them at all knew it was true.

There's just something about a grave that reveals the kind of life the person who fills it lived. You can be gracious about them, but if you knew the person well, you can look at their fruit and assess their life.

As we chase the lifestyles and jobs that require longer work weeks. And as we make the attendant compromises, it's worth looking into the legacy that those compromises generate. If you're caught up in a rat race at work, I offer you the life of Ruth Starook as exhibit A in looking for a better way.

She gave her children a mother's care. She gave me the love of my life. What price can you put on gifts like those? That was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Who would I be without Karen?

Young people face a huge temptation to believe the lie that there are more important things in life. The fruit? Many more broken families today than a generation ago.

One small illustration: I know of three students at my alma mater (a top Christian college) who spoke to their parents about wanting to commit suicide in this last week. That college is employing six times the number of counselors now as when I attended it.

As one who sees thousands of 20-somethings come through our ministry, I can tell you that there is an epidemic afoot. We parents often have no idea what is going on with our kids.

I'm glad that there are a few like Ruth Starook who have chosen a better way.

Comments (6)

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about “legacy” lately, but you present it from a different perspective very well, “…it’s worth looking into the legacy that those compromises generate.” Thanks for your leadership.

  • Wouldn’t we all be SO much better off if we KNEW this deep in our hearts. Sure my brain gets it, but sometimes the lies override…I pray I am doing as good or better a job than my own parents…

  • Mom’s example has helped me make pivotal decisions in this regard. It’s so amazing to see the breadth of impact God’s humble, unassuming servant had on this world.

  • What a wonderful woman grandma was…she served like no one I’ve ever met. The world is a better place because of her!

  • Ann Ritchie DeLille

    “Her children rise up and bless her.” Proverbs 31:28a.
    “But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Prov.31:30b
    This came to my heart as I watched Mrs. Ruth Starook’s children, grandchildren and family give honor and blessing to their sweet mother, grandmother, and wife. She was God’s Gift!!

    Imagine the ripple effect of Mrs. Starook’s Godly legacy…..

    What an honor and joy it was to have such a wonderful family friend.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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