Dear Pastor's Wife

Dear Pastor’s Wife: Your Heart Under A Bush

Dear Pastor’s Wife,

I’ve had something on my heart lately that I want to share. I hope it is both a deep encouragement and a timely challenge- to you and to myself.  I’m concerned that your heart may be under a bush, just as mine has been in the past…(and sometimes I find it there still.)

Long before God’s timeline included you and I….there was another heart under a bush. Several hearts, actually. And oh, what sweet stories they are, not necessarily because of the humans involved, but because of the infinite gentleness of a compassionate God.

Remember Hagar? Twice she found herself wandering, tearful, wounded. Twice she found her heart shattered. The second time, though, she put her heart under a bush and walked away. So she didn’t have to see it die. In Hagar’s case, her heart under a bush was her son Ishmael. Though he was a teen, the Bible tells us that she put him under a bush and then went a little ways away from him so she wouldn’t have to watch him die. They desperately needed water, food, direction for life.

They needed everything a person could possibly need.

We are told earlier in Genesis 21 that God told Abraham he would still make a nation of Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son. We also know that  Hagar knew something of that promise before she was put into the wilderness. The first time God sent her back to Abraham and Sarah, He promised to make Hagar’s descendants many.  While she may not have grasped the full impact of that promise, she did know the promise.  Yet in the heat and desperation, she felt the weight of her humanity and forgot the good promises of God. If the promise was to give her many descendants, then wasn’t that in itself a promise of life?

Oh, this is you and me. Knowing the promises. Believing in the goodness and mercy of God. But when life falls apart, we still put our heart under a bush and step away so we don’t have to watch it die. We’re convinced that it will indeed die, and that life has reached a new low where God doesn’t stoop.

But God, we’re told, hears the cry of Ishmael (not Hagar this time) and yet he speaks directly to Hagar, asking her what is wrong, as if she were the one who cried out. {Isn’t that just like Him…desiring relationship and communication.} God then gives Hagar clear instructions and reiterates the promise of Ishmael’s future. He tells Hagar to basically gather her heart up from under that bush, to take it/him by the hand, and to move forward with her life. He also provides a well of water right before her very eyes, and she fills her water bottle. Turns out her life wasn’t over- in many ways it was just beginning. This was Hagar’s turning point.

She declares the wonder of being seen by the One Who sees {El Roi.} Truly, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy. {Psalm 33:18}

Elijah was another heart under a bush…a juniper tree. After an incredible (and literal) mountain top experience in ministry, we catch up to him in 1 Kings 19 when he is running for his life. He stops to catch his breath, and puts his heart under a tree. It’s all over, he’s convinced. He asks God to just take his life. He’s decided that his ministry has reached it’s peak, and the next best thing is heaven. God has other plans. He wakes him up, cooks food for him, and puts him back to sleep. The Great Chef does this three times, until Elijah is refreshed. But Elijah is so terrified that he runs for another 40 days. God “finds” him in a cave and asks him what he is doing there. Again, God shows Himself desirous of relationship. I can almost picture Him watching Elijah from a distance, and then at the right moment, when Elijah has come to the end of himself, He says softly (perhaps with a slight smile,) “Elijah, I’ve been watching you. What are you doing here?” This was Elijah’s turning point.

He puts on a display of glory for Elijah, showing him fire and wind and earthquake. But, as we know, the LORD was not in any of those things. After all of those powerful displays came a still small voice, and by then Elijah’s stormy heart had been scooped up from under that tree and was ready to actually hear the little voice. The storm inside him had calmed. And the life that Elijah thought was over or should be over, was actually, in many ways, just beginning. God had instructions for Elijah- a purpose, a plan, more compassion and more relationship with the God with whom He walked so intimately.

Mary- her heart under a tree as He bore that tree to Calvary. What anguish she must have felt, even knowing full well God’s plan to rescue the world from sin. There at that tree, the Child she raised took on her sin and those of every person in the world- past, present, and future. What a heavy load to bear. His wounds for my sin. The weight, the cost of grace in full view, though few understood. Though few still understand.

We watch a tender moment on the cross, when Jesus pauses to acknowledged Mary’s grief. He gives instructions to another to care for her. Get up and leave this place, because there is a future. The cross is just the beginning. Resurrection is around the corner! In this way, Jesus tends to Mary’s heart, knowing that, as a mother, her heart (Himself) was currently nailed to a tree. A Heart on the tree…a heart under the tree. All hearts there were cared for, tended to, healed that day. All hearts are still cared for, tended to, and healed at the cross. This was Mary’s turning point.

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds. {Psalm 147:3}

I see your heart, over there under that bush. It’s bruised and badly broken…wounded. Like Hagar, you’re trying not to look. You don’t want to watch your spirit dying. But you know it is….like Elijah, you see the signs. And like Mary, you’re numb. So numb that you may even say you don’t care anymore. Not out loud, of course. The church mustn’t know.

But Someone does know. Someone does see. And that One is standing by for the turning point when you want to be healed more than you want to be wounded. I hear from many, many wounded pastors’ wives like yourself (and I’ve been and am that one myself). The concern must be, though, that we not indulge in a counterfeit comfort that only causes our healing to be hindered. We must have that turning point where we quiet our hearts and open our eyes to the Healer before us, and let Him speak there. To the heart under the bush. The healing, interestingly, always comes with an instruction to go again, to help again, to serve again.

Oh friend, is your heart under a bush today? Has it been there awhile, nursing old wounds? As gently as I know how, I urge you to take notice if it is time for the turning point- that part where you are brutally honest with God about what has happened to you. That part where He meets you with a gentleness that takes your breath away and a knowledge that He has begun to restore you.

Do you feel that pulse, that steady beating now? It’s invading the silence that has been there for so long. It’s your heart, scooped up from the bush and back inside your life!  His heart in yours, healing bit by bit, hope glimmering in the distance.

And the whisper of an assignment.

Life has really just begun.


A Kindred Spirit

2 thoughts on “Dear Pastor’s Wife: Your Heart Under A Bush

  1. Thanks Leah, you write beautifully. I loved how you expressed ‘a counterfiet comfort’, its so true. Thanks for your encouraging website – may God encourage your heart today 🙂

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