Never forget this…at any point in life, in a thousand different kinds of situations, the answer to [the] prayer, “Use me Lord, I want to be greatly used of you”, can be the hardest thing you have ever faced. It is the answer to prayer that brings exhaustion of a variety of kinds, and that brings a cost to be paid that almost smashes you and me. There is always a cost to being used…for the Lord…the reality of having been used is not wiped out by the resultant cost. We are in a battle, and winning a skirmish brings scars and sometimes deep wounds.”
-Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry (Emphasis hers.)
I’ll just be honest. I get down about the ministry sometimes. Often I don’t look at the big picture, I get mired in small details, and I forget to keep my eyes on Jesus. I know it’s common, but when I realize I’ve done it again, it feels silly. (But then I read Edith, and it feels less silly. More normal.)
I think of all the other ministry wives out there, struggling to remember who they are and the importance of what God has called them to do. I wanted to share what I’ve read lately.
Although we had already been in ministry for years, and had been warned about the rigors of the senior pastor’s role, I was unprepared for some of those realities. For instance, the hurt and disillusionment that often comes from people being upset (and sometimes ugly) with my husband.
The only thing that makes any sense is to take it all straight to Jesus, praying and confessing the angry feelings to Him. Jesus already knows of course, but the act of confessing all of those hurt feelings is something that must be done. Because the hurt gives anger a grip on my heart that it must not have.
I wanted to share a few things that have been helpful to me.
This seemed to be a poem for a pastor’s family…
If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
and make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
Yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
-Rudyard Kipling, “If” first verse
If we are in ministry, then we will have taken the time to put much scripture to memory. But sometimes, a different way of seeing is helpful. This poem gave me a new way of seeing. (And it made me cry.)
Next, a book called First we have Coffee, by Margaret Jensen. I have no idea where I heard of it. The title and cover wouldn’t be my choice for such an important book, but oh well, read it anyway.
Written by the pastor’s daughter, it is a beautiful, heart wrenching tribute to her mother and to the faithfulness of God.
In our culture of “all about me”, this will be a sobering book. It will remind you in a big, important way, that “the ministry” isn’t at all about you. It is only about being the sort of person that God may use as He pleases.
Lastly, The Tapestry, by Edith Schaeffer. I’m not sure there is better use of your time if you are struggling to be a support to your husband in ministry. A reviewer on Amazon said it was like having a therapy session for pastor’s wives. I would have to agree. I felt that God allowed me to read it at a critical time, and I’m still working through it.
This book made me want to try again to be what God has called me to be. I appreciate that Edith shared the times she didn’t think she could keep going in ministry, and what came from obediently pushing through.
So what am I (slowly) learning from these books?
Make our home a safe haven for Michael. I’m the only one who can do this for him.
The scenes from home blended into one picture: Mama. That must be why Papa needs her so desperately, I thought. She is his home, his roots, his source of life’s meaning, for she continually [encourages] him back to faith in God.
Make our home a refuge for hurting people. I’m the only one who can make sure I stay available for whoever Michael brings to our home.
I saw the endless stream of lonely ones that Papa brought to Mama…she was his harbor…God had given him someone special, and he had to share her with the world.
Raise our children to follow Jesus, and not become bitter towards the ministry.
If we allow God’s love and forgiveness to flow freely, the heartaches of life could be so simply washed away. Simple, but not easy. God’s way, not man’s way.
Mama had walked a road of simple obedience to God’s ways. In her daily discipline of walking she had found His yoke easy, and His burden light. And she had gently opened squeaking doors to the past and oiled them with joy so her children could walk through those doors, not remembering hurts, but only the all-encompassing love of God.
And a bonus quote that has stayed with me for years:
Children tend to adopt the attitude of their mother. If she doesn’t feel her children are neglected, they won’t feel neglected. With such a family atmosphere, her husband is greatly aided.
If you are a ministry wife, I hope something here can be an encouragement and blessing to you as you continue to encourage and bless others.