Fragile Vessel: Handle with Care
- Monday, March 20, 2006
Tragedy opens our eyes to reality. In recent years, two of my pastor friends have buried their wives. These men were about my age. In sharing their losses, I had to ask myself—How would I be able to carry on my ministry without the help of my wife?
My wife personifies the term “help meet.” Her presence is a great personal comfort to me. She notices things I miss. She possesses a remarkable intuitive sense of things that may pose a threat to the ministry. She has a talent for spotting needs among the congregation. She will say something like “You had better call the Smith family this week”; and when I do, I find a real need there that had escaped my notice.
A mission board member shared with me a survey that his board conducted among missionaries serving on a foreign field. The purpose of the survey was to determine whether they could justify the travel expenses of having mission representatives’ wives accompany their husbands on their visits to the field. The results of the survey were clear: “Send the wives! If you must cut costs, leave the men at home.”
My wife and I have had the tremendous privilege of visiting many of the missionaries that our church supports. I have seen with my own eyes the message of that survey authenticated over and over again. Little gifts that only a woman would think of, kind words of comfort, the gracious acceptance of hospitality in less-than-ideal circumstances, a sympathetic ear for a struggling missionary who seldom has a confidante, all these may make my wife’s presence more significant than mine. I preach the Word to the crowd, but she does her best work one-on-one.
Many of the challenges I face as a pastor present consequent challenges for my wife. People within and outside the church may criticize the way I do things. Some may offend me personally. Demands on my time may diminish my time with her. All of these things have an impact on her and threaten her stability, her well-being, and her ability to serve. So how can I protect her so that she can maintain her important ministry and share my joy and fulfillment in the ministry?
Provide a Safe Haven for Your Wife
A pastor should be very cautious about sharing with his wife all the criticisms and offenses against him. In that great passage on forgiveness in Matthew 18, our Lord says, “Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” The biblical way to clear an offense is to do it privately. Bringing others into the conflict resolution process is to be used as a last resort, and then only those who are in a position to help should be included.
Your wife will doubtless provide a listening ear. However, she may take the offense very personally and be injured by the conflict even after the offense has been properly dealt with. So it may be better not to share everything with her.
If your wife is to grow into the Christian God intends her to be, she will need safety and security. This truth is implied in Ephesians 5:26–31. Following the example of Christ, a husband should nourish and cherish his wife. He should provide her needs as he can, and security and safety are among those needs. The “oneness” of the marriage relationship should never be threatened or even doubtful. A pastor/husband must demonstrate the unconditional love that Christ so graciously extends to us. A wife should be able to rest secure in her husband’s love and care, as we rest in our security in Christ.
Include Her in Your Ministry
Many wives feel that they must compete with the ministry for their husband’s time. This feeling often breeds resentment and even jealousy. There have been times when my wife has said, seemingly in jest, that she should make an appointment so that I would have time to listen to her. By having a part in the ministry, your wife will better understand the demands on your time.
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