Eleven years ago on a sultry May day, I said “I do” to the man God had brought into my life. I knew I was marrying a pastor. And even though I didn’t fully know what I was getting into, I had received enough ministry training to know that I was signing up for a unique life. There I stood, surrounded by beautifully clad smiling bridesmaids holding purple irises, ready to embark on a brand new chapter of life.
“In sickness and in health…for richer or for poorer.” We said our vows and slipped on our rings, never dreaming how severely and how soon those vows would be tested. Our first anniversary found us in a new country (Canada), wrapping our heads and lives around culture shock. The pastor who had called us up to the church left shortly after our arrival. I was enduring a pregnancy that landed me in the hospital multiple times and nearly took my life. We owed over $50,000 worth of medical bills to several hospitals. Our vehicle could not be driven until it was properly imported. We had no family or friends nearby to help.
“Sickness….poorer…” We didn’t know what we were signing up for, but we certainly knew what we got. Still, we had made a commitment to each other. Commitment is what kept my husband at my hospital bedside for days and weeks on end. Commitment is what kept him trusting the Lord when we had not a cent to our names, five expensive medications to pay for, and massive debt to boot. Commitment is what kept him from walking away from me to find a woman who could meet his needs. Commitment is what led him to say “no” when doctors pushed us to abort our baby to save my life. Commitment is what led him to make risky decisions regarding my medical care. Commitment is what kept him on the mission field when people were telling us to move back home.
Commitment is what made him not just stay, but continue to love sacrificially while staying.
When you’re truly committed, there is no ‘out’- from either the staying or the loving.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parallels that are so apparent between marriage and ministry. And I’m joking (but not really) when I say that maybe we should have an “I do” ceremony when we become pastors’ wives. Some of us (like me) marry a pastor from the outset. Others become pastors’ wives at middle age or even as senior citizens. I’m continually amazed at the wonderful stories I receive through email about how and when God has called people into ministry. And what exactly is that call?
The call of God is essentially a loving request from Him: “Will you commit to Me to do my will?”
We say ‘yes,’ of course. And when we do, we are not only saying yes to God, but also to our husbands. We are committing to walk beside them as a faithful help meet to a pastor. We are also committing to the specific location and church that God is calling us to at that time.
And most of the time, we have no idea what we are committing to.
We are continually walking into the unknown, because of our commitment.
And it is this very unknown that causes ripples in our commitment, because we soon find out what we have committed to. We’ve all found ourselves in a position of looking around at what our life and ministry has become, and thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t know this was going to happen. I didn’t know how much I would suffer at the hands of professing believers.” And without us even realizing it, our commitment begins to wane.
There are always pastors’ wives walking away. There are just as many who are choosing to stay. Yet among the ones who stay are those who carry their bodies to the church building every week; but inwardly they have given up, shut down, thrown up the wall. Staying, but not loving.
Though I’m pretty sure we would all give lip service to being committed, I wonder how God sees our hearts in the hard times? Commitment is such an essential part of Christlike love. Yet our human hearts continually attempt to divide the two. It is rampant in the world- sex outside of marriage, affairs, common law relationships…commitment is underrated, and thereby real love is absent. Sadly, this same philosophy has crept into our churches- attending but not joining or getting involved, viewing the church as a social club, leaving at the first sign of personal needs not being met…commitment is underrated, and thereby real love is often absent in the body of Christ.
As our commitment wanes, so does our love. We do not love what we are not committed to.
It comes down to this, pastor’s wife: are you committed, or not? I mean really deep down in your soul. Are you ready to suffer as well as succeed? Are you willing to embrace sorrow as well as joy? Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to the unknown, because you are committed first and foremost to your sovereign, grace giving God? It’s time to be committed, all in. Not just the body, but the heart and mind. I think it’s interesting that the greatest commandment to love the LORD our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul is repeated so many times in Scripture. I think God knew that we would need this reminder often. I think He knew there would be times in life and ministry when it would be excruciatingly hard to remain that committed, because of our sin and the sin of those around us.
Here’s the thing- there’s no guarantee that my marriage will ever bring “health.” There’s no guarantee that we will ever see “richer.” We’ve had more than our expected share of deep suffering and trauma. But I’m committed to this man- body, mind, and soul, for as long as we both shall live.
It’s the same in ministry. There’s no guarantee that your church will ever be well. There’s no guarantee that you will ever see tangible results or success. There’s no guarantee that people will appreciate and love you. You may see more than your expected share of suffering, as Christ Himself did. But He has called you, and you must be committed- body, mind, and soul, for as long as His call holds you there. “Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Is it scary at times? Definitely. Are there tons of ups and downs? Always will be. Does commitment bring blessing? Absolutely. And with it, so much grace….the capacity and resolve to sacrificially love as Christ Himself has loved you. This is the love that works in ministry- the love that flows out of true commitment.
This is the marriage of ministry. Say the vow, slip on the ring. Be all in.
A Kindred Spirit
Calling ALL pastors’ wives! Here is something just for you: