Leading on Empty
No time with my best friend- my husband
Kids are object of everyone’s opinions
Disappointing people
Feeling like a “Ministry widow”

Can you identify with these?  Perhaps only a few or maybe several.  There are chapters in ministry life when I’ve identified with each of these.  While I love the  life God has called me to, these issues are often the things that lurk in the dark spaces of my life – definitely stealing the joy and keeping me from focusing on what He has before me. 

Several years ago our family spent several weeks in Guatamala City at the Central American Seminary (SETECA).  Craig was teaching a class for pastors from eight different countries while the girls and I helped out around the seminary by filling bags of beans and rice for flood victims and playing with the children of our students.  After Craig finished teaching each day, we would head out to help out at orphanages, work at the Compassion site, or deliver dinner in the local dump community at the Guatamala City dump.  It was a great time of ministry and growth for our family!  But while we were there I was reacquainted with my worst annoyance.  No, more than annoyance – this thing causes me to shiver and get those lurching feelings in my stomach.  Now, I’m a country girl at heart and a biology teacher, so making my stomach lurch is not an easy thing to do.  But here, I saw them face to face… when I opened the cupboard to put away our groceries.  Yes, cockroaches!  I hate them!  Give me snakes, bees, spiders – whatever.  But I hate cockroaches.  And I’ve learned over the years that the only way to fight them is to stay ahead of them.  Once they take hold and multiply, you’ve lost the battle. 

Many of these issues that we encounter as pastor’s wives are just like cockroaches.  They may start as annoyances, but if given a foothold, can grow into an infestation that not only destroys the home of our hearts but keeps us from doing the ministry God has called us to.  But ceasing to use the kitchen when we see these little critters is not the answer!  And neither is stopping using the rest of the house because we’re afraid they’ll be there too!  Are you getting the parallel? ? 

I was in a conference last week where a group of pastor’s wives were able to spend about five hours together.  It was a lovely time of having space to get in touch with where we are in the process, what our struggles are and sharing them with those who really “get us”.  During our time together, God brought back an illustration that Craig had used just a few weeks before.  He had talked about all of the difficult struggles that we face and the burdens they put on our hearts.  Those things that we carry around that become heavy weights to bear.  Things like disappointment, jealousy, guilt, fear, and anger.  He had a bunch of these on a huge chalkboard behind him.  It was totally full of these heavy words that hurt and hinder us everyday.  There was no space for anything else.  But he made an interesting – and unexpected point here.    It wasn’t a matter of squeezing in the new life that God has for us  – or the new growth that He is bringing – around all of the burdens and pain.   There was no room.  But the answer wasn’t trying to erase the whole thing at once either.  Rather simply taking a sponge and wiping out a few, their white smudge still visible as a shadow of the burden that was written there, was all it took to make spaceAnd it was in that blurry space that new words of life could be written – right in the midst of the chalky blurr of those things we don’t want to be there – those things we hate that we are experiencing, but that are an integral part of the calling on our lives.  

Sometimes I think that I have to get rid of the baggage and struggles I am carrying before I can embrace what God is calling me to.  Really, all I need to do, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is to let go of enough to create space for God to breathe new life into my tired heart.  The smudged word may still be there as a remembrance, but it will grow fainter as God continues to heal me with His new life.  God doesn’t wait to use us until all of those struggles are gone.  Rather He often brings healing in the midst of using us for His Kingdom.  Being about Kingdom purposes brings us closer to the heart of our Father, the only place where true healing can happen.