This post has been banging around in my heart for a long time. I have wanted to write it for a while. For years, really. I have written it and rewritten it nearly a bazillion times. I might not even publish this one. I hesitate to write it for several reasons, but at the top of the list has to be:
- Fear of being misunderstood
- That you will judge me for caring too much what people think
- Vilifying the Church to those whose hearts are already cold towards it.
Most importantly, though…
- There are wonderful, dear friends, sisters, and brothers who love me and hurt when I hurt and I am so eternally grateful to them. They pray for me, they remind me of the gospel and they encourage me every time we are together. I don’t ever want to minimize their ministry in my life.
The solid truth is that I love the Church. I love MY church and the people in it. I would hate for that to be misunderstood. They have ministered to me in ways I never dreamed possible. They have healed parts of me that were so broken. That continue to be broken. That is my great fear in writing this. That this will not be understood clearly. I can only pray that it is.
There are many other reasons that I do want to put my words out there. It has little to do, however with some disillusionment that I have this all figured out. I like putting words to feelings, thoughts and to TRUTH. Especially in case there is another somebody out there that can identify, and who can limp along with me. I am a student of God’s grace. I affirm for myself what Brennan Manning said: “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”
My heart’s desire is to show how God works everything in our lives for His glory and for my good. I don’t want my circumstances to define my life, I pray that my life is defined by the Cross of Jesus. So, that is my introduction…here it goes…
So, yesterday. It was Sunday. My heart wakes up racing. I don’t know why it races on Sunday. I am sure it has something to do with my mind and my weak flesh, but anyway…it races and my hands shake. They shake all morning. There are a lot of thoughts going through my head on Sunday morning. Some of them are logistical. Getting the kids up and dressed and fed and a meal prepped for the afternoon and the place picked up for any afternoon guests. But, most of my thoughts are on other things. My flesh and the Spirit within me do battle on Sunday mornings. I am faced with the challenge of putting my feelings through the grid of the gospel and it makes me tired (because it is hard work), it makes me feel weak (because it’s the truth and I hate that) and it makes me feel vulnerable (because being the wife of a pastor makes me feel that way).
If you interviewed a million wives, whose husbands are pastors all across this country you might get a million different answers as to how they are feeling about the Church. I know that my particular struggles are not linked to where I am, but who I am, so I fear that naming my struggles will look one-dimensional, or that the reader will think I am representing everyone. I don’t and I can’t. But I thought I would put mine out there (gulp) to hopefully help those of you who can identify and maybe for some of you who don’t too. Perhaps a look at my struggles will give you grace for someone like me.
My first thought on Sunday morning is for my husband. The light on his side of the bed is always the first one on and he is always in the Word. His first thought is of the people he under-shepherds and he is having his devotions. I hear him sigh when he gets up. I know his burdens. I know how much he loves the Church. I know how much he believes in it. I know the personal sacrifices that he makes to serve her. I know the hours that he spends praying and counseling and pouring over scriptures to feed her. I know his insecurities and areas that he is weak. I hear his prayers for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in him. I know the weakness in this man; the frailty. The brokenness. The discouragement and the joys. To then hear him preach the Word with power that I know as a witness comes directly from the Holy Spirit astonishes me every time. When I hear how people are growing, learning and excited about what they are gleaning from the Spirit through his teaching I rejoice! I get a front-row seat on that, and it thrills my heart. I am a witness to the work of the Spirit like few others.
But, there is a harsh reality to being the wife of a pastor that is a difficult burden to bear. In spite of all the of the wonderful things that I hear and get to delight in, I also have to bear witness to the hurtful, critical and often times abuse of him at the hands of the Church. I must bear it, while loving this man, admiring him and truly knowing him. No one knows him better than me. Not only do I bear with him, I sometimes receive the brunt of their dislike of him. I have to pass people in the hallway at church (or Target!) as they pretend not to see me; avoiding eye contact, I have been in the position where I have overheard the whispers about him. Some of these same people that we prayed for the night before, clasping hands by our bed; treating us coldly and with criticism. I must also try to sing songs about my Savior and His goodness and His grace all the while seeing their faces and their folded arms if we sing too many songs they don’t prefer or wondering who will be writing the letter this week to Him about how “unsinkable” these songs about the life, death and sacrifice of Jesus was for them. I have to put the hurt somewhere when people he has spent hours with, given personal money to, watched their kids, visited in the hospital, laughed around our dinner table with, cried with at their loved ones passing, held them at their funerals just walk away. I can see the hurt all over his face when he sees their spot in church empty. Again. Sometimes, without a word of explanation. I carry that hurt with him because most of the time we were doing these things together. I have to put my feelings somewhere healthy after hearing these same people have spent time with others where instead of breaking bread together in fellowship and praise, have spent this precious time whispering about him behind closed doors, tearing apart his character and questioning his motives. My flesh cries, “FOUL!”, because I KNOW this man. I know his heart. On so many levels it is unjustifiable to want to hurt someone who has only ever tried to love them and care for and sacrifice for them. It just doesn’t make sense. My desire to see justice for him is the prevailing theme of my thoughts. What can I do to make them see their sin? What can I say to prove his quality? I desire justice for him. I go through a million scenarios in my mind of how to explain things better or help them understand clearer. Couldn’t I just shout it from the rooftops how much it hurts?
The Spirit whispers for me to remember Jesus.
When I look at Jesus, I remember my sin. I remember how He loved me at my darkest. I remember how He took the wrath that I justly deserve. I remember that the scriptures say that everyone who was faithful to Him, even those who said that they would rather die with Him before they denied Him, did just that. They ran. They left him. I remember how easily I do that too…even when I know what He has done for me. I live in the freedom of His grace and mercy every day and how easily I run to what feels good at the time. How quickly I forget His love is enough and how quickly I abandon all the richness of that love for temporary satisfaction.
I remember that God sees my husband and he sees all of his best attempts at pastoring as filthy rags. God then looks at Jesus and His perfect pastoring, and then Jesus, my husband’s lawyer, sitting at the right hand of His father says, “He has my record of perfect righteousness.” and God is satisfied. He is like a proud daddy. He is satisfied with Rob because of Jesus. I remember that my standard for righteousness doesn’t meet God’s perfection and I am thankful that my husband can preach the Word, believe it, and live it at all because of Jesus.
When I remember our sin and remember Jesus, my heart no longer feels wronged. I feel thankful. I know that we are undeserving of love. I am far worse than I would like to believe. Now, as I pass those people on Sunday morning, as I hear the whispers, see the folded arms, hear how they are speaking of us in their circles, my heart is flooded with remembrance. I have communion right there. My darkest. My desire for people to like my husband, appreciate him, and follow him is what Jesus died for. It is ugly sin. The sin of pride and arrogance and the idolatry of self-love. When I see myself for how I truly am, there isn’t any room left to judge anyone else. What’s left in my heart is thankfulness. Jesus knew my idolatry and died for the punishment it deserved. He was raised victorious and my position is with Him. My sin was left in that borrowed tomb and left there. Now, instead of the delusion that Rob and I are deserving of nothing less than admiration and glory, I remember I deserve death. I am flooded with a compassion and a mercy for the Church that is not coming from me because the truth is that we are the same. My husband, for all his wonderful qualities, does not deserve their love. He deserves hell. And the desire for justice for him has not been answered, praise God. Jesus took what my husband deserved. Wrath and Hell. We all stand guilty and at the mercy of God.
So, I make intentional effort to forgive and to still serve because I remember that Jesus did this, does this and will continue to do it forever for me. And when I am in heaven with Him, He will still be serving me and advocating for me and He will be the only one with scars.
The Church is here to make Jesus beautiful, not me. He is the Savior. If I am looking for people to acknowledge my worth, then I am preaching to myself that what God thinks of me isn’t enough. Each thought must be made obedient to Christ. Each thought must go through the grid of the gospel.
As much as I wish the list of my struggles and my sin would start to grow shorter as I grow older, the list actually gets longer. Maybe this is a grace too. I need to see my sin as my biggest problem. It is humbling. It is embarrassing. It is weak. But, it is worship.
Maybe this is the point of corporate worship after all. To gather together with other messy people who don’t always treat each other with the kindness of Jesus but who stand as grateful recipients of it.
If the Church continues to be a place where I see my sin then keep me there. Rub me the wrong way. Show me the complexities of my dark heart. This will keep me grateful, humbled, and broken before the Lord who deserves all the praise and all the glory. I can stand with arms open and heart abandoned. In awe of the One who gave it all.
Pray for me and for your pastor and their wives on Sunday (on Saturday night too), but don’t pray that we are given what we deserve. We deserved eternal death. Pray instead that we stay thankful for the grace of Jesus. It is our only hope to serve and love the Church.