It was 6:28 on a Friday evening. With my heart pounding rapidly, I heard the garage door finally open. I plastered a smile on my face, waiting patiently at our tiny kitchen table with two babies in highchairs. Within one minute of my hard-working hubby stepping through the door, I vehemently quipped a quick hello and lunged a plate of food in his direction. Then, silence. He knew he had stepped into an unwelcome home.
Was I physically and mentally exhausted from taking care of two little ones in diapers all day? Yes. Was I frustrated that this was the third time in one week that he was home late from work? Yes. Was this why he was getting unleashed upon? No. Although my excuse for my behavior was my exhaustion and my husband’s rudeness, the reality was much different: the Lord was stripping me of my selfishness and pride. It was only two years previous that I was ministering side-by-side with my best friend. He loved leading and teaching, and I loved administrating and praying. I thought there was nothing that could stop us from doing the Lord’s work together! Fast-forward 20 months later, and my new ministry was to two little munchkins. I craved to be at the office to know the ministry week’s ins and outs, yet I was now at home feeling lonely and misplaced. I was angry with my husband that evening—not because of his delay, but because I was jealous of his position and opportunity.
Lessons from Scripture
It was through that struggle that the Lord taught my heart through His Word. These passages and corresponding lessons are a part of that journey. I pray they stir your heart as well.
Lesson #1: Your role is determined by God, not the culture.
1 Corinthians 7:17 says, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” I wrestled those first few years with contentment in my role as wife and mom. I saw other women stride in wearing several hats. I fought my husband in wanting to do the same. As the Holy Spirit deepened my understanding of my utter depravity, I became increasingly passionate about my roles as a child of God, wife to Tony, and mother to Ethan, Peyton, and (soon-to-be) Ezekiel. If my life was indeed to be lived for God’s glory, I needed to get out of the way and start trusting my sovereign King, where He had me!
Lesson #2: Time spent with the Lord must be an unwavering priority.
Psalm 119:9-10 reads, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart, I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” My quiet times with the Lord became paramount. I started waking before my littles, frequently before 6 am while having interrupted sleep, to spend moments with my Savior in prayer and Bible study. I started protecting this time with my Lord by saying no to other things that called my attention in the late hours. My heart soon became saturated with His Word as I sought to memorize passages in the monotonous parts of my day. What once was just getting ready, laundry, cleaning dishes, etc., became sweet opportunities to relish in the words that Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. I was no longer lonely because His life-giving truths were overcoming my fears and anxieties. I praise God for this season as it cultivated a life-long habit and showed me that my words had no eternal impact if they were not for His glory.
Lesson #3: Joyful service and submission to your husband brings great glory to your God.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 states, “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” God also started redefining my view of marriage. Just because I was no longer by my husband’s side in ministry didn’t mean my devotion and service to the Lord had to stop. The eternal needed to still reign priority. I sought ways to serve my husband more, not because I wanted to receive something from him, but because I wanted to help lift his arms while He did battle on the front lines. It was part of my service to the Lord. Instead of criticizing my husband with questions when he got home, I looked for ways to bring him a reprieve. The sobering words from Ephesians 5:22 on how wives submit to their husbands as obedience to the Lord also started transforming my heart. God graciously exposed many areas where I had been challenging my husband’s authority rather than following his leadership. My love for God had to supersede my love for my spouse. Only then could I joyfully obey His call on my life to submit fully. I praise God for these redefining years. It allowed our relationship to start properly reflecting Christ’s loving headship of the church.
Lesson #4: Your home is your first and most important ministry, and a proving ground for future ministry.
Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands that the word of God may not be reviled.” These verses helped radically shift my mindset of who I thought I should be in this season of life. I thought because I was a pastor’s wife, I needed to be all things to all people, forgetting that this passage applies just as much to me as everyone else. My focus now is passionately raising my children, growing and walking in the fruits of the Holy Spirit, following my husband, and serving God’s bride and the community He has placed us in. The Lord gently reminds me that I am still doing ministry; I am now doing it from home. I have three precious children that He has entrusted me with for a short while. No one can love, disciple, and instruct them as their mother, and so my goal is to give them 100% of me at this time. I cannot guide other women until I have proven to be an example of godliness in these child-rearing years. I praise God for His gifts, as I am reminded daily of my dependency on Him.
Lesson #5: God’s expectations matter most.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 states, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It can be challenging to live in a culture where women leaders are expected and applauded, and you don’t feel like you measure up. Each woman is made unique and has married a man who is also created uniquely. Therefore, each marriage dynamic will be unique. Tony and I take things year by year, evaluating the needs of the family and the needs of the church, which has helped us decide where I am to be serving on Sunday morning. However, that is only a small piece of the pie to what God calls me to be to my brothers and sisters, day in and day out. I am commanded to correct, encourage, and help those in my path. I am instructed to have enough margin in life that I may be patient, serve, rejoice, and pray. My past has taught me that when I strive in (and for) ministry out of worry that I am not “doing” enough, the very virtues I hope to extend such as grace, kindness, love, and mercy, quickly disappear out the window! I end up depleted and useless to everyone. But if my focus is on Christ, and I allow Him to bring the people whom I can serve, in His perfect timing, I walk away energized and rejoicing in His grace. I praise God that He graciously removed my own expectations of being a pastor’s wife and replaced them with His expectations on how to be a child of God.
The Glory of Hidden Ministry
It has been over a decade since that “cold” night with two tots in highchairs. What marvelous grace and mercy God has shown me — I trust I will emphatically say the same in the next ten! It is only by His Holy Word that my view of female leadership has changed. Whether married, single, mother, or grandmother, Jesus’ words fit the bill, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” It’s been well taught that the biblical word for minister (diakonos) refers to a servant-waiter or table waiter; A.T. Robertson even defines it as the “errand boy” in 1st-century culture. Thus, Jesus seems to encourage a ministry that sometimes, if not at all times, is a hidden ministry, concerned less with glowing lights and more with growing hearts.