How Michigan Has Destroyed My Theology

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Moving to Michigan has totally destroyed my theology…but it needed to be done.  Having to pick up and move my life away from all that I knew and loved made me an emotional wreck. At any given point I would have done anything to be free of the soul crushing pain I experienced to have to give up my job, my family, my friends and my home.  But through the whole process I was looking for a way to get what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to go back.  I wanted to be able to erase everything that everyone said and did that brought us here and I wanted to go on living my life exactly the same way that I was.  But God had something better and that involved tearing down my theology…to rebuild it again in the way that He knew was true and right. Although I could say that I knew God and his ways…I wasn’t living in a way that proved that. God broke apart my life so that he could remove these wrong beliefs about life and about Him.

1. I acted as if man could thwart the plans of God. If asked I would have affirmed with certainty that God is always in control and that God’s plans could never be changed by the actions of man or any other force.  But in action, I was living as if one sin against me or one wrong decision would erase me from the good plan God had set, and send me on the path of darkness and defeat…away from Him.  When we left Ohio, I had a long list of “what ifs” that when followed to completion all seemed better than what was actually happening.  I was living as if God had been thrown a curve ball that he just could not hit and I was having to make do with what was left after choices were made and positions were filled and everyone else moved on.  Faced square on with the pain of all of this I had to make a choice…would I live in the misery of what could have been…or would I move on knowing that God knew exactly what he was doing all along even in the midst of mistakes and broken promises?

2. I acted as if Plan B was an option. In focusing so strongly upon what went “wrong” and what could have gone “right” I found myself living as if God’s Plan A had been thrown off course and I was then stuck with Plan B.  But if my theology was how it should have been, I would have seen that there was never any Plan B.  God’s plan remains as it always was from the beginning of time… all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).  He is sovereign. But His plans aren’t just the way they are because He is in control and He can do whatever He wants (although that is true as well)…His plans are the way they are because He wants what is good for us and what will bring the most glory to Him.

3. But I acted as if God did not always have my good and His glory in mind.  My theology had become so rough around the edges that I was living as if having to do something I didn’t want to, meant that God was no longer looking out for my good.  It was absurd for me to be living that way because I knew that particular concept not even to be true in parenting.  I make my kids clean the living room because I want them to learn responsibility.  I punish my kids when they disobey because it is good for them to learn the submission that will later be reflected in their relationship with God.  I am not doing these things because I want to cause them pain…I am doing it because I know it is best for them.  I am doing it for their good. God doesn’t send me through an awful experience just to watch me suffer.  He does have my good in mind, even if it hurts…and ultimately His glory is seen through His sovereign actions.

In order for me to know God better and to form a better knowledge of Him, He saw best that I be removed from the situation I was in.  He saw that I needed to be broken and torn apart to be formed into a vessel He could use.  Most of all, He saw that my theology was wrong…so He used moving to Michigan to destroy it so He could build it again as it should be.

Portrait of a Ministry Wife: Part 1

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As I started receiving the answers to the questions I had sent out to other ministry wives, I became curious about how I would answer the questions myself.  I realized as I began reading back through the questions and contemplating my answers, that it was a difficult thing to answer some of them. They caused me to think hard and to draw out experiences and feeings that I hadn’t thought about for awhile.  And I decided that if I was asking other women to tackle such a challenging task, I needed to be willing to take on the questions as well. So here is my contribution to the ministry wife project I have been working on:

Tell us about your family and your ministry. My husband is currently an associate pastor at a church in the Detroit metro area.  We have a daughter who is 5 and a son who is 3. My husband is responsible for discipleship and counseling and provides guidance for the small group program. He also helps with the addiction recovery program as well.

Is there a single trial or event within your ministry that you feel has helped to make you who you are or that taught you a necessary lesson? Tell us about it and explain how God has used it to help your ministry.  Through the first four years of my relationship with my husband, I fought an eating disorder.  I was in a constant state of anxiety over calories and exercise, I struggled with eating in front of people and I was perpetually weak from not eating.  We learned a lot about each other and ourselves during this time. I learned of his loyalty and his amazing ability to counsel others in difficult situations.  He loved and supported me even though I was always lying to him and hiding things. He helped me not only to see that what I was doing was destructive but that it was a also a sin.  God used this time to strengthen our relationship and to teach me the danger of putting something else before HIM.  I feel that in an interesting way the experience equipped me for our future ministry in helping people trapped in addiction.  I felt the unending spiral of darkness that came with giving myself over to a destructive lifestyle.  I felt the constant pull to give in to something I knew was terrible for me. I learned what it was like to want out but not knowing which direction to go.  I learned that addictions aren’t in behavior but in the heart.

What five words would you use to describe being a ministry wife? Frustrating, fulfilling, overwhelming, joyful, edifying

What would you say is your most important job(s) as a ministry wife? What expectations do you feel are placed on you as a ministry wife? I feel that the most important role right now is to be supportive and edifying to my husband. I often fight this role that I know to be so vital.  I have always been very independent and goal oriented and I tend to lose sight of working with my husband because I am seeking my own desires. I feel that many expectations that are placed upon me are the expectations I place on myself. I want to appear like I have it together because people are always watching. But right now I am in the process of learning that people relate better to me when I don’t have it all together.  Trying to appear perfect only hinders my ability to minister to people and keeps me from living out the truth of the gospel.  I am not perfect, I cannot be perfect…so I must be in constant reliance upon Christ.   

I have been told over and over by many pastors’ wives that it is very difficult for a ministry wife to have close friends and to form relationships. Have you experienced this? Why do you think this is a problem and what do you think ministry wives can do to change this? Do you feel relationships are different for a ministry wife? If so, how?  I have in the past experienced the loneliness of being privy to all the in-depth details of what goes on behind the scenes of ministry and knowing that I cannot and should not share it with anyone.  But I also have been guilty of using this stereotype as a reason to avoid relationships.  If it is impossible to have friends as a ministry wife then I don’t need to try and I don’t need to experience the hurt and frustration of getting close to people.  But in doing this, I have often missed out on the joy and excitement of having close relationships.  I have learned in the last year that it just takes commitment…reminding myself, “I will not walk away from this relationship no matter how difficult it is”.  And I have also found how important it is to be friends with other ministry wives as well. I have experienced the openness and joy that comes from being close to those you are serving with and I have found how rewarding it is to seek out other ministry wives in the community or around the world and be able to ask questions and share information.   

How do you respond when someone criticizes your husband or when a conflict arises in the church that your husband has to deal with? In the last few years, I have had many opportunities to learn how to react properly to criticism and conflict.  I would like to say that I have done well in these situations but the truth is that I have found myself harboring bitterness, losing sleep over anxious thoughts, having difficulty facing people at church and even joining in the criticism of my husband.  Early in our ministry, our family was criticized for personal life choices and we ended up being excluded from a ministry we had put a lot of emotion and time into. I realized then how sinful my responses were.  When it was all said and done, I ended up locking myself in the bathroom and crying my eyes out on the floor, in physical pain over the emotions I was experiencing and feeling like I wanted to walk away from the church all together.  But in the midst of all of it, a friend had basically told me that when we worry so much about what people think and we get so worked up about what people do to us, God sees that not just as a character flaw but as sin that needs to be removed and He will do whatever is necessary to remove it.  He told me about a painful situation he had gone through and how it had caused him to see the wickedness that is in the hearts of men and how little their opinions mattered next to the holy judgment of God.  It was then that I realized I could not care about what people thought anymore…the opinion of my Heavenly Father was all that really mattered.  His work should be my main concern and everything else is just a place for Satan to get a foothold. I cannot effectively minister to people if I am constantly afraid of them.

Has ministry forced you to move away from family and friends that you were very close to? How has that affected you? What have you done to make such a transition easier? After spending five years ministering in churches that were close to my family, a couple months ago we were called to move five and a half hours away from them to serve in the church we are currently ministering in.  It has been challenging to adjust to being away from my family…but also rewarding to be relying on the staff and congregation in ways that we never have had to before. To make the transition smoother, I have tried to say “yes” to a lot of invitations for play dates and to dive into a couple selected programs within the church so that I can get to know people quickly. I have also tried to view this time as an exciting adventure that God has graciously allowed us to have and as a special time for our family to learn and grow closer together.

In the coming weeks I will be sharing the responses of other women who I have had the priveldge to know and even serve along side of. Stick around to share in the joy and struggle of being a ministry wife.

The Life of a Ministry Wife

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Only a few short months ago I wrote an article on how life abruptly became different for my family and  me when my husband had to step away from full time ministry to take a job outside of the church.  All of our life together had been spent preparing for ministry…looking forward to seminary, reading books about ministry, making sacrafices and living with less to get a solid education, searching for pastor positions, seeking relationships with other pastors and their families….but within the span of a few weeks it seemed that all we had worked for had been taken from us.  We were left scrambling to figure out what we would do when what had completely defined us for so long was no longer such a stable foundation.  And what I discovered was that following God and serving Him is not about a title or position or recognition…it is about where He has placed you and what you are doing with what He has given you.

And yet, here I am…once again a ministry wife.  Last month we moved five and a half hours away from family and friends in order to follow the plan that God had so blatantly placed before us. In the mess of trying to figure out who I am and what I am doing here and why we had to move so far away…I began to wonder if there are other ministry wives out there who feel as overwhelmed and confused as I do.  I longed to know that there were other women who thought of themselves as completely inadequate…I wondered if other wives had repeatedly been in and out of ministry, wondering what God was doing.  I became curious about what God had done in the lives of other ministry wives to bring them to where they are.  And so, I have developed a set of questions to probe into the life of a ministry wife not just for my own curiosity but for the encouragement of others who are caught in the whirlwind of ministry on the verge of being swept away.

I hope to, as well, disprove some unfortunate stereotypes and myths that have long tanted the pastor’s wife’s reputation.  I am allowing my readers a chance to see real women, in real situations just trying to be who they are.  I want to show others that we, as ministry wives, are just trying to take care of our families while trying to do what God has called us to do…and dealing with struggles and fighting sin just like everyone other Christian.

Next week, I will be answering the questions to start off the series and in the weeks to follow I will be seeking the help of other ministry wives to contribute their own responses.  I hope you will stick around for a glimpse into a project that I hope will ultimately be a great learning experience for anyone who is struggling to serve God in any capacity.