If there was a test for pastor’s wives, I generally feel like I would fail. Well, maybe not fail, but pass just barely. I have some skills in ministry. I have a degree in ministry, two, after all, and a passion for God and loving His people, but that doesn’t mean I feel like I’d pass the pastor’s wives challenge. Can anyone relate?
There is no challenge, of course. No test. No rules. Just real life and real forgiveness. So, here is my story of what felt like failure:
My husband’s grandma died last week. We came back early from vacation and he prepared to perform the funeral. We were sad, thankful that Grandma Gigi was 98, and had been a wonderful blessing in our lives, but sad and missing her smiling face already.
Funeral day came. I dressed my kids and prayed endlessly for my husband. Lord, give him the words. Lord, give him strength. Lord, give him peace.
The family walked in the church and I sat down with my beautiful kiddos in the pew right behind “reserved for family”, because there was no room in the inn evidentially. My 3-year-old found the nifty wooden sign declaring “reserved for family” and promptly threw it to the floor. He loved the clattering noise and was ecstatic when some kind soul in front of us placed it back on the pew in reach. Three more tries and I found a different home for that sign.
My 9-year-old, nearly refused to go up and sing with the other children in a rendition of Jesus loves me. He pushed his Old Adam shoes into the bright red carpet and walked noticeably and painfully slowly to the front of the church.
Midway through the sermon my 11-year-old began weeping in earnest. She loved her Gigi. She was heart broken and sad, and distraught at her first real reminder that on this earth there is death and sorrow. I put my arm around her and tried to gently comfort her, until my 3 year old simply could not be contained in the quiet anymore and began stomping his feet against the pew in defiance of experiencing one more minute of the service.
All of this was expanded by the sweet woman behind us who clearly had a hard time hearing and whispered a loud play-by-play to her fellow worshipper – “He likes that sign!” “He doesn’t want to go up there and sing!” “She misses her Grandma!” “He’s ready for the service to be over!” She meant well, and in her defense was inadvertently supportive, but it was embarrassing to say the least.
I hauled my 3-year-old out of church, down the middle aisle, burying my face in his neck to camouflage the sobs welling up in my throat. This was a disaster with a capital D. I felt spent, sad, and still anxious for my husband preaching his heart out.
I stood in the hallway of the church, feeling lonelier than I’ve ever felt. Someone quietly walked up behind me and gave me a hug, a member of our church, a friend.
Her words were simple and sweet. Gospel in my dark moment…
“I’m so sorry. I wish I could make it better.”
The message of the church- the embrace of love in the moment of despair- that’s all I needed. That embrace turned what felt like an epic mom failure and pastor’s wife nightmare into a moment between friends.
I am not alone.
When I am weak, God gives me strength, often through His people, from someone who simply wanted to help make it better this side of heaven.
It’s no secret to most people who know us that our life is a little messy right now. This year has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced.
I find myself like Job asking God to just take it all away. I want a rewind. I want it erased from my memory. I want my heart to feel fine again. Then I find myself thanking God I don’t have boils, I have all my beautiful children, and there’s no ash heap out my back door. A little perspective helps.
However, it’s in the mess I confront my fear and God’s truth. I stood by my husband’s hospital bed and literally got on my knees and cried out to God- “Please step in. Make it better. Make it all go away. I can’t live without him. I just can’t.”
The answer I got was unexpected…
In the quiet of my soul, I heard –
He is not your anchor.
See, I love my shepherd. I LOVE him. My husband is my husband, my pastor, my best friend. He is the macaroni to my cheese, the mustard to my hot dog, the red wine to my dark chocolate, and all that good stuff. He represents everything that God is to me- loving, kind, and patient. I have made him more in my heart and mind than he was ever intended to be. He is not my anchor. He is not what is meant to hold me steady. That is not his job. I can’t hold him to that standard.
I LOVE my shepherd. I love Jesus. He is that anchor that is holding me steady. Looking at that hospital bed, I found the truth. Dave is my gift from God. Dave is given to me for a time. He is a blessing, but he is not my god. He can’t be everything my heart needs.
Only Jesus can fill the cracks in my soul.
Only He can be everything I need.
He is my anchor.
He holds me steady in the storm.