Saturday, July 14, 2012

Prepare Yourself, Then Rest Well

Several weeks ago, I posted this list of ways that being a pastor's wife is both the most difficult and the most fulfilling life I can imagine. The responses I received confirmed that I am not alone in my thinking, but they also suggested that maybe there is a need for some practical ways to focus on the fulfillment side of that equation rather than so easily feeling smothered by the difficulty.

Certainly there are myriad resources which are far more helpful than *me,* but here is my best attempt to follow up to my previous thoughts.

If the question is, "How do I find joy in my role even when I feel surrounded by challenges that I am unequipped to handle," my first response is this--you do so very imperfectly. We all do. It's called being human rather than divine. BUT the response I like much better is this--ALMIGHTY GOD has your back. Big time. And he's better than perfect, because even the idea of perfect is limited by human definition. SO--in short, the way you find joy as a pastor's wife is to prepare yourself for the worst and then trust God to make it the best. Easier said than done, right? Yep. It is. Here's a little more to elaborate on that thought (but it's still easier to write than do)--

Keep in mind that these examples are offering some of the "worst" things you can expect. This is not to suggest you will always be entrenched in all things negative. This is simply to help with the advice above. PREPARE for the worst. If your experience is not so bad, praise God! 

To continue--

If you are a pastor's wife, part of your husband's job is to speak out against sin. Hopefully, never without following up with a message of grace. But even so, generally speaking, people don't enjoy this. Pray that God will bless you with congregants who receive the sharpening well and REJOICE when that happens, but realistically, you shouldn't expect this to be the norm. As my husband would say, people don't like to to be poked in their idols. At best, it may make them sulky or depressed or uncomfortable around you. But worse, it might make them angry and belligerent toward your husband and maybe even your entire family. Simply stated, you absolutely MUST NOT allow yourself to take this personally. God is in the business of sanctification. Just pray and let him do his job. When you see people finding freedom in Christ from the bondage of sin, it will more than outweigh any frustrations you face in relationships that aren't quite there yet.

If your husband is proclaiming the gospel regularly, without question, there will be those who disagree with him. The Bible promises this. The gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, and any pastoral role should include proclaiming the gospel to those who don't know it yet. Pray that God will soften hearts and have the good news find purchase in their souls, but until that happens, be aware that many will disagree with the message and some may do so in unsavory or even vitriolic ways. Don't lose heart. I assure you this is a better scenario than speaking only to those who are in 100% agreement. When that is the case, evangelism likely isn't taking place. Though not always (in the case of arguments which are about something other than the gospel message), many times disagreements indicate that seeds are being planted. It may appear that the soil is rocky or dry, but that is not your concern, nor your husband's. Your call is to be obedient to share the message he's given you and support your husband as he does the same. God will sort out the rest. Rest in the confidence that you don't have to (nor can you) be in charge of changing people's hearts or behavior.

Because of the fact that much of your husband's communication is one-sided, there is a strong possibility he will be misunderstood at times, maybe often. Sermons and writings and other forms of communication that don't involve interactive dialog allow ample opportunity for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Pray for and BE GRATEFUL FOR those who will take the time to follow up and clarify concerns. Many times these are some of the most beneficial conversations you or your husband will have. However, realize that just like you, everyone you or your husband communicates with in any form is a sinner. This means they may very well respond in sinful ways, making assumptions or even accusations that just aren't true or relevant. The further you or your husband's ministry reaches, the more likely these scenarios may be. People may assume they know him (or you) based on what they've read or heard, when very seldom do they have complete information which gives them a balanced or accurate picture. 

Jared has been accused of some truly vile behaviors toward me and his children, which are nowhere close to reality, but for whatever reason, it doesn't always occur to readers or listeners that reading one blog post or listening to one sermon doesn't make them an expert on his intentions or behavior. Loving your husband means these kinds of reactions to him will be hurtful to you. My advice is to simply avoid those conversations if you can. I used to want to read and hear everything that was ever said about Jared. I checked his blog almost daily, and I asked him about every negative reaction to his sermons. I don't recommend this behavior at all. It did little more than make me angry and bitter, which was in no way helpful to me OR him. I've learned that my energy is much better spent loving my husband well so that he is equipped and encouraged to respond appropriately to those who don't love him quite so much (or in some cases not at all). So unlike I used to do, don't read negative comments if you don't have to and don't ask him to repeat hurtful conversations he's had if you don't need to be involved. Pray for and encourage your husband often so that when these attacks come, he is strong and confident to respond appropriately. If you are already aware of a hurtful response, remember that the person causing the hurt is likely hurting themselves. And certainly they are a sinner in need of grace. Do your very best to pray for them rather than reciprocate. At the very least, pray for them (and yourself!) BEFORE you respond to them. And pray OFTEN that God will help you AND your husband to live for an audience of one better each day so that your confidence in Christ far outweighs the less than encouraging opinions of others.

Since your life is somewhat "public," people will assume they know much more about you than they actually do. This is especially true when you turn down invitations or don't show up to every activity in the community. If you tell someone you have plans and then they drive by and see your car in your driveway, their response may be less than charitable. You could be in there preparing 10 meals for those in need, counseling someone via phone or internet, organizing Bible studies, or even on your face before the Lord in earnest intercessory prayer. But if you aren't doing what *they* think you should be doing in that moment, their assumptions many times will not drift toward a favorable opinion. Some will assume that a car in the driveway means you're in there sitting on your couch eating chocolate bon-bons. I know that's crazy, but I promise it's more true than you know. This is also challenging as it relates to the way you react to certain situations in life. If you display hope and joy even when times are tough, many assume that your life is easy and stress-free. On the other hand, if you struggle openly, even if not often, those same people might assume your faith isn't strong enough. Again, it is critically important to rest in the arms of your Father and dialog with him regularly. If you submit to him first and foremost, misinformed opinions will not plague you as though they are of first importance. This is not to say that you ignore those who desire to hold you accountable and sharpen you. You are a sinner. You will mess up. People are not wrong to point that out appropriately. But when false accusations or misguided assumptions arise, freedom in Christ will be your strength.

Remember that you and your husband are both sinners. This might seem like a strange point to make, but stay with me. The life of a pastor and his wife should not be one of constant defense mode. Neither you nor he is perfect, and you shouldn't live as though it is your job to make everyone believe that you are. Accept your weaknesses as a way to boldly exhibit Christ's strength. Allow people to see sanctification happening over time in your life. This will likely be your strongest ministry to many. Far better that they should watch you transforming gradually into the image of Christ than to be convinced you're perfect and then see you fail. Tell them what the Gospel can do for them, and then SHOW them by the way you allow it to transform YOU. Additionally, recognizing your own standing as a sinner in constant and desperate need of grace enables you to extend grace to others more readily. If I know that I am the worst of sinners, all others are easier to love and forgive.

And the very best advice I can give in regard to pretty much any situation is this--

Pray. Pray again. And then pray some more. I can't stress this enough. It is not only your best defense against the challenges of a life of ministry. It is your only effective defense. Do it as often as you possibly can, and ask God each time you pray to help you pray more and help you want to pray more and help you love to pray more. You will never regret time in sincere prayer. That might be the only promise I can make you regarding a life in ministry, but I do promise that. 


grey rose (they/them) said...

well. i am not a pastor's wife (my mama is) but goodness this is for me too.

thank you, dear becky! praying for you, so appreciate you xo

Leslie said...

This is such a good post, and even though I am not a pastor's wife this encouraged my heart. You should work this up into an article for your husband's blog. :)
Blessings from tx.

Angel said...

I'm a pastor's wife, Becky! Thanks for your words. So so good. I think it is especially profound because of all you and your husband went through over the last week or so...people assuming they know more about you than they really do, being misunderstood, proclaiming the gospel, speaking out agains sin. Whew! It's like Jared put all of these into action in one week!! I'm so glad Jesus is our Strong Fortress and Defender.

I think about these areas frequently as well. Thanks for putting words to my thoughts.