This week, our pastor tendered his resignation to step down from vocational ministry to care for his family who he feels has been neglected in the past few years because of how he has handled the demands of ministry.
WOW! Something in my heart resonated with those words. As sad as I was to hear that he would be away from being our pastor, I was happy for his family. But I know the weeks and months ahead will not be easy. It will be a big adjustment for all!
This post has way more to do with my life story than theirs…because I have no idea what their full story is. So please realize that is where this is coming from! There are parts of my story that are nothing like their story, but may be more like yours.
I’ll share this part of my story and you see what we have in common whether you are in or out of vocational ministry.
Yes, I have a history that makes me very happy for his family
I grew up in a home of dedicated parents. They were very dedicated to the Lord, but in the 1950’s, that dedication put the family on a very low rung.
The children were supposed to look good, of course. But spending time with them was not high on the list of priorities for parents who were “dedicated”. Children were much more of an afterthought. Children who were a pain or who caused problems were a hindrance to the purpose of their lives of ministry!
As the oldest of three (at the time), I took my role seriously. I don’t remember anyone spelling it out for me. I was a very sensitive, intuitive child. I knew from before I would have put it into words, that it was my responsibility to help their minisitry by not rocking the boat. It was my responsibility to deal with my own problems, my own feelings and not bother them with those menial concerns. They would have been horrified to hear those thoughts from me, but that was what I picked up. I am not condoning this thinking at all!
Over years of being an MK as a very small child in the boonies of Bolivia that ended with my Mom’s nervous breakdown a year after my brother was born; being a preacher’s kid in a small town country church; being the child of a Christian school principal as he was developing the school in the early 1950’s on the staff of a large church; being an MK again in high school…too old to be able to go to the 50% English school in the language to get credits, I feel qualified to speak to more than one aspect of this problem as it affects many.
I experienced the aspect of being paid almost nothing so we weren’t able to take vacations to get away from the fray. Our “vacations” were spent with my parents working on additional degrees during the summer. I can’t say they weren’t fun in a geeky way, but they weren’t really true vacations. Fortunately, I’m a geek!
Having people put the lowest possible value on the work you do…sometimes even not paying what was promised, puts a lot of pressure on the family in ways that aren’t always anticipated. Yes, GOD provides.
But that concept is a two way street. If GOD can provide, why can’t your church or organization trust Him to provide the living wage that is needed for the person you want to hire. Why must they be the ones who must trust GOD to provide for each expense along the way? It is a question worth considering.
Often the work they do is stressful in itself. You as the Church or organization who is hiring them can choose to trust GOD for their salary so they can trust GOD for the ability and energy to do their job!
The feeling of being alone can often be translated to feeling deserted by GOD
There is also the feeling of being abandoned and alone that I often felt as a child. It was partly of my own making. I distanced myself from my parents who could have supported me…maybe. But I was so afraid of their turning me down (as they later did to my brother) that I didn’t even ask for help when I would have liked it.
This thinking can happen with a pastor’s wife or missionary’s wife as well. That stoic attitude that puts on a brave, happy face when all is not well is not helpful for you or the relationships you want to have with those GOD has put in your path. Since my childhood, I have been a pastor’s wife. I have chosen NOT to be the good christian soldier wife. Why? Because it is not Biblical! It is not real. it helps no one!
Being a good Christian soldier is terrible for relationships…with family, friends, spouse!
It tells them nothing about who you are & seals you off from them and their comfort & care…to say nothing of your ability to comfort others.
That whole “soldiering” mentality is not good for anyone. It keeps us separate from those who can help us because we appear to be so strong and in control. In truth, we are often quivering in our boots. It is all a huge cover-up for our fear and insecurity. It “protects” us from the very help we need.
I came back to the US to boarding school. I thought I was making my own decision. But knowing what I know now, with the benefit of years and years of life experience as well as some counseling, which I didn’t have then. of course…I think I was doing it more to be a better Christian…to be a better daughter to my parents…to help them be able to minister better. Of course I realize that doing it from this perspective isn’t fair but none of those reasons was valid…NONE of them!
And so, I soldiered on. I wrote only good news from school in my weekly required letter. I only put the best light on any event that happened. My parents thought I loved what I was doing. They thought I was happy there. And I found a way to enjoy myself. Another name for what I did? Lying. It wasn’t blatant, it was avoiding the blunt truth and shading it. It was still a lie.
I missed my home. I missed being with my family. A regimented dorm life is something I wasn’t cut out for…and it was extremely regimented when I was there! People who judged me on very little information were not people who were fun to be around. Even though I had little life experience to know what other kinds of Christians there were out there. I had this feeling this was not all I had to choose from. I was right!
I had glimmers when someone like Mrs. Fortosis sat and visited with us about marriage over a campfire once when I couldn’t get away during Spring Break.
“Yes,” I thought to myself. “That is what I want for my life. A place where I can boldly speak up and say what I really think and be loved and accepted. A place where I won’t be judged superficially about my motives, by people who don’t want to take time to get to know me.”
But one thing I never, ever dared to do was ask for my parents to take some time off from ministry for me. I felt that would be tantamount to asking them to take time off from being dedicated to GOD. I couldn’t do that! Of course, it wouldn’t have been that at all!
Not a sign of weakness, but a sign that someone is hearing you…finally!
But when I hear of pastors or missionaries who take time away from ministry for their families…whether it is for their wives, children or both. Far from thinking of them as weak, I think of them proudly and happily. I think, “Yes, they may have failed their family up to now, but they are finally listening. They are stepping away from something they truly love for their family members who they love even more than their profession. They are showing them how much they love them.”
I know it isn’t easy. Finding a job may not be easy. Making the adjustment to the “real” world my not be as easy as they think. But the value they show their family is going to be worth anything they would have gained through their “ministry.”
Because ministry in GOD’s eyes is funny that way. It isn’t just in the formal ways we think of it. It is in the quiet ways, the hidden ways, the places where no one sees. That is often where the most powerful ministry happens.
In GOD’s economy, the way up is down,
the power in His kingdom
is found in weakness,
and poverty of spirit is the doorway to
gaining the Kingdom of GOD!
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. I Timothy 5:8 ESV
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
I Peter 3:7 NLT
Are you trying to be a good Christian soldier
to protect yourself from the pain of close relationships?
To isolate yourself from hurt?
Do you realize you are hurting yourself more than
you are helping yourself by choosing this way of life?
And I haven’t even begun to discuss the need to start on the work of forgiving. Yes you. The one who looks so good, so strong, so sweet. Under all that armor, fueling all that strength is a fury that needs to be hosed down with GOD’s forgiveness. The desire to forgive those who have wronged you? It can only come from Him! Forgiving the host of people who have wronged you that you have ignored and stuffed is sitting in your gut and stewing away as resentment. It may all be aimed at one person. But it still needs to be worked on. It will be a miracle. GOD can do it! That is a story for another day!