Thursday, December 6, 2012

My life as a pastor's wife

It's funny as I find myself writing this post, seeing as I always said I never wanted to be a senior pastor's wife.

It's always those kinds of notions in my head that get me into trouble- the "I could never___..." or "That's impossible..." kind of thoughts. Many of those things I said would never happen have mysteriously come true. Interesting, isn't it? (i.e. "I don't ever want to live in a Muslim country, I don't want to live in America, I don't want to homeschool my kids"...)

When we received that phone call 6 years ago, it changed our lives forever. Up until that point, we as a couple thought we were headed only in the direction of overseas missions. That was, of course, all we had ever wanted to do. The phone call consisted of an offer for a pastoral position- after which we dutifully prayed about but secretly doubted would ever come to be. After all, we wanted to be missionaries, not pastors. Right?

Wrong. Not only did we feel the Lord confirming that phone call, but we felt a supernatural passion and vision for pastoring that we never dreamed lived inside us!

I often think to myself, if we had not received that phone call years ago, how would our lives look differently today? The doors the Lord has opened up for us from that point on have led us to where we are now. I am thankful for that person who listened to the voice of God when He was led to call us that day.

Working as pastors has come more naturally to me than I ever would have thought. For instance, my missionary heart longs to reach out the lost, broken, needy, and forgotten. To encourage and disciple and train and send. I didn't realize how those characteristics would so wonderfully compliment the pastoral position. If I've learned anything over the years, it is to love people.

Plain and simple as that.

To love people. How do you love people?

For starters, it helps not to be prideful and run ministry like your own kingdom. I have never considered our position something to be put on a pedestal, or as some kind of power-trip. When I look in the Scriptures, I see Jesus leading as a servant. That's all I want to do. Serve people. If that means cleaning up the nursery after church, I'm willing. If it means picking someone up who needs a ride, I'm willing. If it means having someone over for a meal and making them feel special, I'm willing. Never once have my husband or I longed for the power or prestige of standing on stage. We would rather, honestly, be behind the scenes, helping and serving where needed.

When the immigration department met with my husband last summer to inform him that they knew of our religious work in the country and we would never receive a long-term visa, we were crushed. If God was shutting the door there, where was He opening a door then? Were we to move to another country and continue mission work? Were we to move back home to America?

Both of us, without discussing it together, felt the Lord STRONGLY impress on our hearts to pursue a senior pastor position in America. What God? Us? Really? We just want to be servants, to love people. We didn't fit into the typical senior pastor "mold" we've seen before. But over and over we felt Him speaking this to our hearts. One day in particular I was in the bathroom brushing my hair, and as I looked into the mirror I thought, "Lord, we have gone through so many struggles lately. I just don't understand why, but I trust You. It has been so hard though, and I can't help but keep asking You why?" I didn't necessarily expect an answer, I just wanted to be honest. Immediately I heard Him speak to my heart with tenderness and power, "Because I am training you to be a senior pastor's wife."

Woah. God just answered my question. He really answered it. Was I ready to obey?

And to top it all off, someone who knew nothing of what the Lord was speaking to us at the time came to my husband after a service one Sunday. He told him that he felt we were supposed to look for a senior pastor position. He stated, "Don't look for a youth pastor position. Don't look for an associate pastor position. Look for a senior pastor position. You are ready. I see you both leading a church together someday. You are ready."

We were blown away. We had told no one of our thoughts on the matter. To have him so boldly step forward and affirm us in this way was obviously the Lord. 

I can't tell you that we are perfect people. I can't tell you that we have all the answers. I can't tell you that I am complete and mature and the superwife and supermom that everyone should look up to. All I can tell you is that I was a sinner, lost and alone, and the Good Shepherd found me, forgave my sins, and came to live inside my heart with power and passion. I long for Jesus. I long for Him so deeply. And I long for others to know Him deeply. This is my heart. I only desire to be a vessel for Him to use. I was a beggar and He gave me food to eat, and now I am leading other beggars to the Giver of the bread of life. He alone is worthy of all praise and honor. I am weak, and broken, on a journey of grace and love. As long as He desires to use me, I am willing.

Again, if I've learned anything over the years, it is to love people.

How can I love people?

Encourage them
Counsel them
Call them
Write a card
Send an email
Invite them over for dinner
Study the Bible together
Pray with and for them
Check up on their prayer requests
Be a shoulder to cry on
Be a faithful friend
Remain steady when other things in their lives are crumbling
Invite them out for coffee
Listen to their heart
Share my heart
See their strengths and call them out
Train them to be leaders
Encourage them when they walk in their gifts
Confront when issues arise, but do it in humility and love
Love them even when they make mistakes
Help them walk through rough patches
Never gossip
Look for the best in everyone
Foster unity among everyone
Avoid starting cliques
Make everyone feel welcome
Practice honesty and transparency
Avoid trying to look perfect and untouchable
Admit mistakes
Be a true servant, even when it's difficult

While I lived in Cambodia my junior year of college I read a book about Rich Mullins, the singer/songwriter who passed away years ago.  I'll never forget the way the author wrote about him. He was described as "An arrow pointing to heaven."

That is all I ever want to be. An arrow pointing to heaven.

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