Steadfast in Affection

Faithful:  Adhering firmly and devotedly, as to a person, cause, or idea … steadfast in affection or allegiance.”


Article by Malcolm Marler, Edited by Dee DeWitt


I have learned the most about what faithfulness means from people I’ve known.


My father showed up at hundreds of athletic events I played in from the time I was in the first grade through college graduation.  And more importantly he showed up as a father, mentor, and friend during dark times in my life as well.  The bottom line is … he was there when I needed him.


Others who have been on the sidelines of my life have also taught me about faithfulness without knowing it.  Like Girdie and Mr. Pepper.


Girdie was an African American waitress at a BBQ restaurant in Birmingham, AL for over 25 years called “Ollie’s Barbeque.”  I went there as a boy with my Dad, and then in high school when I could drive myself.  I always sat at Girdie’s counter.  I ate there when I came back home for visits during more than a decade when I lived out of state.  Girdie was always there.  She greeted me personally, asked me how my Daddy was doing, and if I wanted my “usual.”  She met me with a smile, a warm gaze into my eyes, and she always had an encouraging word.  Girdie was faithful to thousands of customers like me.


And most recently, Howard Pepper taught me what it means to be faithful.


Mr. Pepper has sold Christmas trees for decades.  I’ve purchased our family Christmas tree for the last four or five years from him.  We always seem to talk about our lives while I look at his trees.  Howard is 80 years old and he will tell you he “doesn’t take any medicine.”  “I work every day,” he adds proudly. His warm smile and slow Southern accent are engaging.


I remember the year when he told Mary and me about his daughter-in-law and grandson being killed in a car accident that year.  “It has been a hard year,” he said with tears in his eyes.  “But we will get through it with God’s help,” he added as he wiped his eyes with his rough hands.


This year he hugged me when I got out of my car.  “Welcome back,” he said smiling broadly.  And so we caught up on what was happening in each others’ lives once again, and we listened and laughed for a few minutes together.


Thank you Mr. Pepper, Girdie, and Dad for teaching me what it means to be steadfast in affection for others.




Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

-Psalm 51:9-11 (NIV)


Malcolm Marler is Director of Pastoral Care for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, AL.  In addition to his interest in spirituality and health, he loves to identify physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of persons, then design and build programs that help meet those needs.  His warmth and humor along with his powerful message of hope and grace is his greatest strength.  Malcolm grew up in Alabama and attended Clemson University (S.C.) on a football scholarship as a defensive back where he graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology.  He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY with Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.  Malcolm lives on a lake in North Alabama with the love of his life, Mary Bea Sullivan.  He has two open-hearted, loving stepchildren, Brendan and Kiki who are both freshman in college.  For more information or to contact Malcolm, please visit


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Posted on 28 December, 2009 in Gratitude, Motivation
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