I was at a conference for pastors and their wives last January. After several hours of some great teaching with 200 other pastors’ wives, the speaker asked us to break into groups and define a “bedrock truth” that we’ve found to be foundational as pastors’ wives.
After several groups had shared, a lady from the group beside mine stood up and said,
“The best day of my life was when my husband came home and left church at church.” Her statement was greeted with knowing nods and understanding looks.
My heart sank.
This idea that ministry wives should encourage a total separation of home and church life and even more, to view the church as the enemy has become so prevalent as I talk to ministry wives all over the country. Having watched people in ministry be the target of criticism and attack, in fear ministry wives work to create walls of protection around their families. Walls that, they believe, will protect them from the ugly underside of life in the fishbowl. Protection from being hurt by the very people they were called to serve. Protection from uninvited opinions and criticism of everything from how they raise their children to what they wear to the grocery store (really!!).
In the rest of this post, I’d like to talk about the unfortunate consequences of our adopting this way of thinking. Next post, we’ll look at some reasons why it’s happening and so easy to fall into. And finally, what we can do to avoid this trap.
So why is “leaving the church at church” such a dangerous mentality for us to encourage in our marriages?
- When we are married, we become “one flesh”. And when we are called into ministry, we are called as “one flesh”. When God gave Adam and Eve their first assignment, He called them to do it together. They would have different roles as they accomplished the calling of ruling and subduing, but they would work at it together. God knew that this grueling work would serve to bond them together and build their unity – so that He would be glorified in them- together.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–7).
Does this mean that both must be in full time vocational ministry? Not at all. But it does mean that they share a common vision and are on the same team.
- Ministry can be a very lonely place – for both husbands and wives. Our marriages are one of God’s remedies to that loneliness, but only if we are willing to share the joys and the pain of embracing this calling He has put on our lives. If the very thing that drives his decisions, his life purpose, and is the biggest investment of his time, he cannot share with his wife, the wedge between the two will only grow and grow. Does this require us wives to endure lots of sleepless nights working through heart-wrenching decisions, painful criticisms or the weight of grief with our husbands? Yes. Does it mean we shoulder a heavier burden than we would if we remained in blessed ignorance? Sure. But is the “one-heart”, the deeper love and the passion for His ministry that we will be able to share worth it? Absolutely.
- Asking our husbands, or allowing them, to “leave church at church” leaves a big open door for the enemy that you can bet is “prowling like a roaring lion looking for whom he will devour.” I think it’s safe to say that most every pastor, at some time, deals with loneliness, feeling like no-one is on his team, and a feeling of sinking under the heaviness of the spiritual responsibility he’s been given. We are called to be their helpmates in this!! Let us step confidently into this place, this calling, seeing it as the sacred privilege that it is.
I know there are other ramifications, but thought I’d just jot down a few so that maybe, if you are tempted by this idea that life would be so much easier if we could just live a “normal” life, one not invaded by this Calling all of the time, you will have the courage to stand. To refuse to buy into that idea that you aren’t enough – because your Lord Jesus is! And to embrace this High Calling, this Sacred Privelege, that you alone have been given.