In John Ortberg's book Everybody's Normal Til You Get to Know Them, he reminds us that "imperfect people like you and me can pursue community with other imperfect people." Yet when I rewind the tape on my church ministry experience, I can recall some situations that left me questioning the truth of the that statement.
Do you ever feel as though there's a mile-wide divide between what some congregations expect of you as the pastor's wife and where your gifts and talents and desires lie? It happened many years ago, but I still remember a painful conversation with a woman who felt it was her responsibility (or privilege?) to set me straight.
At that time I was a young mother balancing home and parenting responsibilities with working as a nurse, teaching kindergarten Sabbath school, and fulfilling other smaller church roles. One Sunday afternoon I had taken some extra time to prepare the classroom for the next Sabbath when in walked Elizabeth. Her whole body was contorted in anger as she stood inches away from me with teeth clenched. Talking loudly in a menacing tone, she told me that I did not meet her expectations of a wife in ministry. She then scolded me and informed me of the role I was expected to fill.
Now if we were to be perfectly honest with one another, most of us could share a personal story of our great fall--you know, the one that knocked you off the proverbial pedestal built for the pastor's wife. We each face times of disappointment in the church. There can be many reasons, and for some of us there are too many to list. See if any of these less than pleasurable times come to mind: a hurtful comment made to your husband, raised eyebrows or "discipline" directed at your children, or an expression that you should be more hospitable, more involved, more up front.
In one of the first small churches where Steve pastored, I hosted nearly every special celebration in our home--a baby shower, a graduation party, a wedding shower, and so on. I loved it! Then we moved to a much larger, affluent church where the women already had their own system for all of these events. My gifts weren't needed, and I struggled to know where to fit in and connect.
In each of these situations I've had to learn to give back to the Lord my trial and not become bitter in the area of service. I've learned to make adjustments, realizing that in some churches my talents are not as needed as in others. I've learned to pray and wait for the right opportunities to participate and share my God-given gifts. I also pray for God to put His love in my heart for those who have been hurtful; I need to see them through the eyes of Christ.
Know that you are remembered in prayer as you give the gifts of your time and talents to those in your churches. And if you're experiencing challenges like those I've shared, know that you're not alone. Be encouraged as you serve others for Jesus' sake.