Journey to the Rock

The "us and them" attitude with church leaders.

Rita Stevens writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her husband is the president of the Texico Conference (West Texas and New Mexico). Rita works as a medical technologist, and she and her husband have two adult sons.

I remember the day my husband called me and said that he had been asked to be the conference president. I retorted, "I told you I wanted to visit there, I didn't say I wanted to live there!" That's how I became the administrator's wife. That one little phone call caused my life to take a new direction.

Our two sons' reactions surprised us. They were teenagers at the time, and their ears were open to comments made by individuals. Though they loved and greatly respected the conference president, we didn't realize how much the comments of others affected our sons. They said, "Oh, Dad, you don't want to be a conference president. Everyone likes you, but no one likes a conference president." Notice they didn't say the president, but rather a president. Many times my husband and I discussed the statement our boys had made. Was there really an us-and-them attitude?

The morning after the startling news, as I took my morning walk, I prayed. Raising my hands in the air, I argued, "O Lord, how could you do this to ME! Don't you know that I will be looked upon as some type of spiritual leader? Surely you see the talented and gifted former administrator's wife is held in such esteem that it is a cruel joke to think I will be the replacement!"

I decided to ask the Lord to help me become the best I could be. I knew I did not have to be like the previous administrator's wife, but I did want to use the gifts God had given me. I wanted to be myself. Still, I felt inadequate to do the job. I desired a deeper relationship with Christ, one that was more open and one that I could share. I was awakened to the message of Acts 17:27, 28. Christ is never far from me. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.

I was eager to be prepared. I wanted to be a good administrator's wife, and I had asked others for advice on how to achieve my goal. I was hoping for some tips or perhaps a list of things I should do. However, the only advice I got was to seek the Lord. At first I was disappointed with the advice. It would be years before I realized the advice I had been given was what I needed.

I began spending time with the Lord. I began each morning with my Lord and I ended each day with Him. I prayed continuously and He gave me strength. I came to the realization that God is always with me. I can talk to Him when I am cooking, showering, or driving. I can talk to Him when I am cleaning the house, working in the yard, or taking a walk. He is my constant companion.

The Lord showed me how to use the gifts He has given me. I remember an experience that occurred in our first church. As I was greeting a church member that first morning, she said, "Well, I suppose you play the piano." "No," I replied. "Then, of course, you sing," she went on to say. "No," I replied again. "Well, then, what do you do?" she exclaimed. I paused briefly, took a deep breath, and said, "I just love people." The conversation was over, but I must admit I felt unworthy. However, I now realize that the best gift the Lord has chosen for me is the ability to love people.

About six months after becoming an administrator's wife, I attended a camp meeting. There I was introduced to a portion of Steps to Christ that I had read before but never applied. I now begin each day with this prayer from Steps to Christ, pp. 70, 71: "Take me, 0 Lord, as wholly thine, I lay all my plans at thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my works be wrought [hammered, fashioned] in thee." I continue with Psalm 19:14: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, 0 Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." I have found this is a prayer not to be used unless you really mean it. Sometimes His plans are not the same as your plans, and being flexible is necessary. It really reduces stress when you're following His plans instead of yours.

Still, I wasn't prepared for the comparisons I received in regard to the previous president's wife. I had what I considered to be healthy self-esteem, but it soon began to be whittled away. There was only one duty as an administrator's wife that I was expected to do—Women's Ministries! I had never participated in nor had any interest in women's ministry. Now, I was supposed to sit on the committee and help plan and advise on something I knew nothing about. The previous administrator's wife's name came up often. As a matter of fact, it came up so often (in my thinking, at least) that I started to experience something I was not used to feeling—jealousy. Thanks, Lord, I thought, now I have a new thing to work on!

Fortunately, one dear lady at the meeting suggested I read one of the books the previous administrator's wife had written. Once I read the book, all I could do was praise the Lord. There was no jealously left. Though I did not personally know the author, I loved her. Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to share this experience with her later. I now consider her a dear friend and one of the most gifted writers I know. She has encouraged me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I became involved in women's ministry, and I have received tremendous spiritual growth as well as numerous blessings. Through women's retreats, I have been given tools to grow my relationships with God and others, and they have increased my ability to love people.

Over the years, I have realized that many pastors and their families have a "them and us" attitude about the conference president. But it shouldn't be so. We are all united in the advancement of the great commission. We are a team. Because we don't have a home church, I think of our congregation as all the pastors and their families. I have come to know so many wonderful pastors' wives, and I cherish each one. I love seeing the God-given talents used by each pastor's wife, whether she is a mother, secretary, nurse, lawyer, doctor, etc. I often think of Romans 12:3: "For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you. Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." So I am content with the gifts He has given me and desire to use them to the best of my ability.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention criticism. That is something to which none of us are immune. Christ Himself endured criticism. Why should we be any different? I have dealt with criticism in various ways. God has allowed me to grow through criticism—sometimes gracefully, sometimes not. I never cease to be amazed at His forgiveness and, most of all, His divine compassionate love. May I endeavor to use each day as an opportunity to show that love to others. To show that love, I find it necessary to seek the Lord. First Chronicles 28:9 says, "...acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and under­stands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you..."

Rita Stevens writes from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her husband is the president of the Texico Conference (West Texas and New Mexico). Rita works as a medical technologist, and she and her husband have two adult sons.