“Do all that you have in mind…I am with you, heart and soul.”
“Do all that you have in mind…I am with you, heart and soul.”
My husband just celebrated a monumental anniversary- 10 years in the parish. It may not seem that big to those outside the church work world, but for those of you in, you know – It’s exciting stuff!
It got me thinking- what are things that would have been helpful to know on day one? It’s almost like being a new parent. Would I have even been able to listen if someone would have tried to enlighten me on the difficult stuff? For what it’s worth, though, here are some of the things I’ve discovered in this ministry life that I just wish I would have understood earlier. Things they either don’t say in Seminary or my ears just weren’t open enough to hear them.
#1 – Church hurts.
It doesn’t always hurt, there are endless joys, but I just didn’t know that it would be so hard. There is the timeless joke that church is hard because it’s full of sinners. And this rings true! We are all sinners, so why am I surprised when someone says something hurtful, when someone criticizes my husband unnecessarily, or someone (myself included) fail to put the best perspective on it all? Ministry is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God. But let’s not fool ourselves- It’s difficult. Someone please tell us this. Shake us and tell us the reality of watching families fall apart and children become prodigals and friends walk away from church forever. It won’t scare us away from ministry, it’s part of strapping on the armor. Would I trade it in? No. Because God heals the hurting places, and unlike basic Neosporin, His healing creates something completely new and worthwhile, better than before, and this testimony in Christ will go out and reap a bounty.
#2 – Finances will always be difficult.
No one ever got into the ministry looking for the big bucks, it’s true. But when we pulled out of the seminary parking lot and into the parsonage garage, I thought that with a regular paycheck and some savings in the bank, it might at least get a little easier. Truth: money is a struggle for all people, all the time. Yes, there is contentment and I feel like we’ve gotten there (or at least closer to the “I know what it is to be in plenty and in want…”) but whether you have millions (ha!) or the small salary of covering a vacancy, stewardship always will require thought and sacrifice. Money is difficult because you care about what God thinks about it. You are constantly living in the realm of should we use a little to go out to eat or buy the little one a new pair of shoes, should we spend the fuel to visit a good friend…well, then we have less money if the youth group has that fundraiser next month. Ahhh! Constantly thinking and planning with money is exhausting and there will never be enough of it because our sinful flesh always craves just a little bit more. I am glad I finally understand that there isn’t a magic amount in a paycheck when it just all gets better and contentment comes. It’s time to lay it before God, ask Him to help our churches be faithful to their pastors and help us to be content in each circumstance and help us find answers to the difficult times. He is faithful when people are not.
#3 – When people don’t choose church, their not choosing between something else and you…they’re choosing between something else and God.
Ok, hear me out- it’s not that when someone misses a Sunday they’ve gone heathen and we’re all judge-y about that. Nope! But it does hurt when a visitor comes and they pick the church down the street, or you invite someone to Bible study for the fourth time and they have too much going on to do it. This is a weird church worker family emotion, that I’m not sure others understand. It’s personal. We have to work to not take it personally, because even in this, it’s about God, it’s not about us. People have to make all kinds of decisions and it’s not the preaching or the programs or the anything that people come to church for, in the end. It’s about Jesus. It’s between them and God. Maybe God has a ministry plan for them in this other choice, maybe they’re ignoring His still, small voice to get involved in a Bible study…who knows, God knows. We invite and we love, He fills the gaps when people disappoint. Know that He thinks highly of you. You are complete enough for Him in Christ, it’s not personal.
#4 – You will need someone to spiritually care for you.
As much as we wish God gave us superhero powers when we entered this church work life as a family, He didn’t. (Well, He gave us the Spirit, so that’s arguable…but you get the point.) We need spiritual care, just like the next guy. And for us, it’s not as easy as showing up and sitting in a pew on Sunday. How many of you feel like a single parent on Sunday mornings? I get the sermon recap at lunch, so that helps. Our husbands are our rocks, but they can not be everything to us at all times. And there is a weird and wonderful and complicated dynamic involved with sleeping with the pastor. This is personal opinion here, not Biblical truth, but I believe we need to seek spiritual care in other places also. Who else do you have in your life that can fill you spiritually? Maybe for you it’s not a person, but your own quiet time with the Word in the evening, or you have a spiritual mentor from your home church, or someone you know that lifts you up in prayer regularly. I have a women’s Bible study that meets every Wednesday. I can share my real self there. I don’t have to hide. I am filled weekly. I have a tiny group of gals from college that I talk to every day in a little chat group. I get a text from my friend, Sarah, that says “What’s your day look like today? I’m praying for you.” almost every morning. These people fill the Spiritual places deep in my heart and my husband helps them to overflow.
So- would I have listened had someone shared these jewels early on? I hope! But who knows. When we are young, whether in age or experience, we feel like we kind of know. We almost need to be in it to experience the yoke and lift it before the One who can make it something beautiful.
I pray for ministry wives every day. What would you add to this list? What wisdom can we glean from you, sister? May those yokes of “youth” be a blessing to you eventually. May you always be filled with the Truth and Knowledge of the One who trades us His yoke, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:4-5
My sweet Zeke. Precious child of God. He was born 3 weeks early on the night of a voter’s meeting. I didn’t bother to tell my husband I was in labor until midnight…why add to his burden? I’m sure someone can relate.
…And then he was here. 5 lbs, 1 oz. of wriggly tiny old man-looking cuteness. Zeke was precious, and always had lots of needs. He never slept well, he never ate great, he used his swing until he was 18 months old. He had RSV, pneumonia…He hated birds chirping and could do without people most days. He didn’t really talk until he started occupational therapy at 2.
But oh, the sweetness. When he’s happy, you can’t even imagine how happy. He regales us with his funny matter-of-fact stories, he loves lions and Papa and skipped the Duplo stage and went straight to engineering Legos early on.
I always had this deep fear of autism as a young parent. My generation is probably the one made fully aware of autism from the first moment of parenting. I got the message loud and clear that it was painful, difficult, unknown, and a struggle. I thought that with it my child wouldn’t touch me, laugh with me, look at me. I had built misconceptions all up in my mind that fed a fear leaving me praying- “anything but that, Lord. Anything but that…”
And then it came to our house.
By the time Zeke got his diagnosis of Spectrum (Zeke’s form is what they formerly used to call Aspberger’s), I felt freed by it. Here was my beautiful child, a gift from above, with all his quirks, precious to me. It wasn’t anything like I feared. God gave him to me as a gift. What Satan tormented me with in fear, God made beautiful daily. With Zeke’s diagnosis I can begin to help people understand him and his way of processing the world. I deeply believe Zeke’s way of seeing the world can teach us so much, if we only take the time to see it.
And isn’t that the way God is. He takes the very thing we feared, the very thing that poked at us and crumpled our hearts, and uses them to take fear from us, to wash the anxiety and build our trust in Him.
God is using Zeke’s testimony already. God has a plan and a purpose, not only for Zeke, but for autistic Zeke, for Zeke’s challenges and his gifts.
Our church is a different place with a little boy who can’t sit in a pew, but prefers to lay in the aisle. Our church is a different place because getting a “hi” from Zeke is something special and you have to work for it a bit. It’s difficult some days, but I’m reminded that other kids and other parents can be encouraged in knowing we all struggle in the world. Zeke’s struggle simply now has a name.
May our churches flourish with these little gifts. Gifts that remind us that God made us all a little bit different, and what God made is always good. May we lift up the differences, celebrate them, and love them in a way that shouts to the world- This is Christ, alive and well, people!
Through a little boy…praising the Lord, in His own way.
Do you have a child who shouts praises to the Lord in his or her own way? I’d love to hear your story.