From God’s Call to God’s Sanctification: It’s not easy being me.
It made no sense. I’d been born-again all of 8 months. I sat in an auditorium in Ridgecrest, North Carolina listening to Bertha Smith challenge us all to pray for the Lord to bring forth laborers for His harvest. That tiny gray-haired lady charged us to pray that people hear and heed the call to missions, to ministry, to evangelism. She exhorted us with Isaiah’s words: “Here am I, send me”.
I prayed for others. I asked God to call men to ministry. Then I heard a voice say, “You.” I’m hearing things. Bertha Smith must have said that. [For the rest of the call click on SelahV Today at the end of this post.]
I must confess. I was not even close to what I’d consider a mature Christian when I first became a pastor’s wife. There is so much I’d know today that I wish I’d known in our first pastorate. There are so many things I’d have done differently. But I did what I knew to do at the time.
Every minister’s wife carries an image of what her role is to be in her husband’s ministry. Each member of a church carries an image of what her role is suppose to be, also. I’d watched my minister’s wife and grew to believe she was the ultimate model of what a pastor’s wife could possibly be. I began to have severe doubts about myself and thought God must have an incredible sense of humor. I’d told her once in our conversations, “I could never be a preacher’s wife.”
God needed to prepare me to be the helpmate my husband would need as he abandoned himself to the Lord’s call upon his life. Minister’s wives are not like the plumber’s, the carpenter’s, or even a surgeon’s. No. People do not weigh her every action and place any demands upon her to fix the leaky faucet, repair a door-jam or perform an appendectomy. Other vocations do not require anything of a wife to accomplish a task. A wife is simply a wife. A minister’s wife is called along with her husband to minister. It’s a twenty-four-seven position. Our husbands truly need us to undergird, support and encourage.
We are called to be all things to all people at all times in order that we might win some. We are called to turn the other cheek; to be sober and exhibit gentle demeanors. Our attitude must never be guided by our emotions, a slight, a rejection, a burden or a criticism. We are to hold our heads high and smile at all times. We must shake every hand and pat every head and hear every complaint. We must always know where our husbands are, and be ever-ready to relay any message to him, and if he doesn’t act upon that message, we are accountable for his inaction. We’re expected to know exactly how each congregant feels because they shared details with our husbands in a counseling session. (Never mind that our husbands would not divulge such confidences with us-surely we should know anyway.)
Our children must sit in absolute silence like privates at Camp Lejune, North Carolina while listening attentively to every word our husbands say. They must be dressed in spic and span condition and exemplify all the fruit of the Spirit. We are to have a perfectly clean and organized house. We are to live on less than what our members live on but dress above our means and bring elaborate dishes to every potluck.
We must be in attendance at everything at all times to support the work of others in the Lord. We are to answer questions of “What do you think?” with non-answers that have nothing to do with what we think, but with neutrality. We are on call at any moment, at all hours of the night, to carry on without our spouses and we are to get absolutely giddy for the pleasure of not having his company. We are not to be sick or in need of our spouse’s attention. We are to have as much theological and doctrinal knowledge as any seminary graduate and have ready answers to any question posed. All the while our opinions and thoughts are not our own, but representative of our husband’s. And he is held accountable for all we think, say and do.
In other words we are called to be perfect, because our Lord was perfect.
Hmmmn. Do I believe all this? Of course not. Did I believe this? I sure did. When my husband took his first pastorate, I lived in a fishbowl of unreasonable and ludicrous thinking. As a minister’s wife, I tried to be what each and every person expected of me. I failed miserably. Seeking the approval of man rarely succeeds.
As God worked in me through the years, I came to the peaceful conclusion that my greatest calling was to be my husband’s soulmate. I learned that God had called my husband to pastor, to preach, to minister and He could do a much better job with him than I could. I was his cheerleader, his confidant, his greatest fan. I learned to submit to him in whatever way he considered best for me-even when I wanted to do something great for the Lord. I consulted him. It’s when I went against his advice I often found myself swimming upstream.
I learned far too late that my greater attention should have been towards my own children and not all the children of the world. I found that living “without” in contentment was far more wonderful than living “with” in discontentment. I learned to hold my piece when I wanted to give a piece of my mind.
I learned that hospitality didn’t mean a spotless home and fancy dinners, but open doors and empathetic ears. I discovered a cup of cold water and a box of tissues meant more than homemade cookies hot from the oven. I learned I cannot control what other people think of me, nor how they speak of me. I learned that what others think of me or speak of me neither determines my worth nor validates it as truth. I learned that holding grudges and bitterness hurt only me and my relationship with the Lord. I found that people are people and each person is growing in Christ on God’s timetable-not mine.
So many things God set me apart to be in my life: Daughter, wife, mother, pastor’s wife, employee, writer, friend. But the greatest relationship and role I’ve ever had is a child. His child. God used my mother and father to bring me into the world, but He, alone, is the creator of my life. He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb. He protected me from my own mother as she carried me in her womb. He knitted me together. What others counted as worthless, God counted as significant. He had a plan for me. He feeds me with His Word and lives within my heart. He abides in me and I in Him and He never lets me go. Every day God works out more of His plan with my life.
I am awed. After all these years, He still is interested in me.
To all ministers’ wives everywhere, I offer this: The best of oneself is all one can give and, at times, what we think is our best is the worst of us which must be surrendered to our Father’s merciful hands. If a pastor’s wife gives herself first to God, He will fill the role most needed in her for all. selahV
[copyrighted, 2008, SelahV Today, hariette petersen]