Category Archives: Grace

Just Keepin’ It Real

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Yesterday I told a sweet friend that her husband needed to be a preacher. We’ve known them for several years, watching them grow from early marriage to a family of five, and seeing them both mature leaps and bounds in their biblical knowledge. But she laughed a little bit (and cried a little bit) and said, “I could never be a preacher’s wife!” This made me start thinking, as I often have before: what does that really mean?

There are some people who think preachers’ wives belong in some high place on a pedestal. That we always carry a Bible tucked into our pockets (and can quote on demand) and never have an ugly, vengeful, prideful thought in our heads. Our marriages must be a haven of bliss – we’re married to a preacher, after all! We act demurely, always with dignity, and we speak just the right words at just the right moment. (These people haven’t met me!) 😉 Oh, and we never forget to clean the light switch covers and the floor behind the toilet. Twice a week! And then there are those who believe quite the opposite: preachers’ wives are hypocritical gossips who don’t control their children and spend too much money on clothes. And, they whisper, just where did that money come from, hmmm?

I’m sad that there are preachers’ wives who perpetuate both of those stereotypes. There are some who seem to enjoy being on that high pedestal, being set apart and admired. Let me tell you, I’ve seen some of the “high places” that the Bible talks about – and as they are usually cultic worship sites, I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t want to be put there. Then others absolutely rebel against the idea of having any responsibility as the wife of a preacher. “I can’t help it, I am who I am…take me or leave me!”

I can’t speak for other wives in ministry, but I don’t fit in either of those categories. But because I believe in keeping it real, I can tell you the honest truth about who I am, after 32 years of experience as a preacher’s wife. I’ve made a lot of mistakes – a LOT. Some of them carried hard consequences. More than once I’ve pretended to know more Bible than I actually did, because I wasn’t in the Word like I should have been. There have been times I’ve been full of resentment about expectations I thought were unfair; hard-hearted and unforgiving toward a fellow Christian. I’m crazy about my husband, but there has been conflict, and we’ve hurt each other. I forget to be thoughtful. Sometimes I just don’t want to assemble with the church, and I don’t exactly know what is wrong with me. I’ve been harsh and critical in my judgment of others, impatient when they didn’t think just like I did or make the same choices that I made. There are times I struggle with doubts and questions. I know this is hard to believe (⇐sarcasm, another of my flaws…) but sometimes I give my opinion when no one has asked for it! And that’s a non-exhaustive list of my flaws!

In short, I am an ordinary woman. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am far from that perfect pedestal wife. And I think there are far more of us “ordinary woman” preachers’ wives than there are the pedestal kind. I know that God doesn’t expect my light to shine brighter than any other Christian’s light simply because I am a preacher’s wife (although I may be presented with more opportunities to shine His light.) What I have to say carries no weight of importance – only what God says. Every day I am thankful that He has forgiven me and does not remember my past. Every day now, I open His word because I love Him more than I ever have, and I want to know more about who He is. Despite my mistakes, my resentments, unforgiving attitudes, and doubts, I know His mercies are new every morning and if I lean on Him, He will help me through the day. He promised to draw near to me as I fight against the one who wants me to continue struggling, and I trust Him to keep all of His promises. I’ve seen His faithfulness over and over to me, even when I was not full of faith toward Him. I am not who I once was – or pretended to be.

I wanted to tell my friend yesterday – you already are a “preacher’s wife”. And friend, you know who you are and if you happen to read this – your humility and tender heart are beautiful to me, and I know to God also. You are just the kind of “preacher’s wife” that the world needs. Preachers’ wives are just women who question and struggle and stumble. Anyone who tries to make you think differently is not doing you any favors (and isn’t being very honest.) Don’t be afraid of who you think you aren’t – be confident in who the Lord knows you are. He builds us up, He heals our wounds, He lifts the humble. “…The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love,” (Psalm 147).

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Rooted in Forgiveness

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“Let me tell you something: I am a man. A sob hit me somewhere around my ankles; it came surging upward…I was just bawling, as I hadn’t since I was a baby. ‘Meester Kinte!’ I just felt like I was weeping for all of history’s incredible atrocities against fellowmen, which seems to be mankind’s greatest flaw…” (Alex Haley, describing his journey back to his ancestor’s African village in Roots: The Saga of An American Family200px-Haley_roots

“Abolishing slavery settles the fate for all coming time, not only of the millions in bondage but of unborn millions to come. Shall we stop this bleeding? We must cure ourselves of slavery. This amendment is that cure. Here stepped out upon the world’s stage now with the fate of human dignity upon our hands. Blood’s been spilled to afford us this moment.” (Abraham Lincoln, from the movie “Lincoln”)

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“A confession, which…comes too late…It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.” (John Newton, former slave trader turned abolitionist) john newton

Last week I finished reading Alex Haley’s saga Roots. Then in Sunday’s sermon, John mentioned the slave-trading captain John Newton, who late in his life penned the words to what we now know as the song “Amazing Grace”. And yesterday, John and I went to see the movie “Lincoln”. Not surprisingly, my mind has been a muddle of questions about how mankind is capable of participating in — and tolerating — the wrongs committed against one another. How could they live with the guilty bloodstains on their souls?

The description of the conditions aboard slave ships is horrific. The separation from home and loved ones; the lack of warmth and nourishment, the rampant disease and widespread filth are conditions that are nearly unimaginable to someone like me who has never experienced true want or mistreatment.

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If my son / husband / father (or any of my loved ones) had been stolen, beaten, shackled, chained, starved, tortured, sold, forced into slavery, and humiliated, I don’t know that I could ever forgive the ones responsible.  Can God forgive them of such?

Could God forgive David of reckless adultery, or of plotting the violent murder of an innocent man? Could God forgive Saul/Paul of his participation in the violence against early Christians? Could God forgive the ones responsible for crucifying His Son, as Jesus asked Him to do? Can God forgive ME?

In the face of his shame David said “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” and “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” (Psalm 51). Despite the guilt he must have felt (and the temptation we often feel to deny ourselves forgiveness,) Paul said “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Phil. 3:13-14). John said “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

I’m so thankful that anyone – ANYONE – can make the choice to turn from their past, be obedient to God and receive His forgiveness – even the worst slave-trader and murderer. And I’m so thankful that God is not like me, with my unforgiving, stubborn, prideful, grudge-holding tendencies. HIS grace and forgiveness are full and complete:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8-12

Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!